Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Fight Over Infrastructure Proposal Begins

Washington, D.C.—Facing serious opposition from both sides of the aisle, President Joe Biden defended his massive $2 trillion-plus infrastructure and jobs proposal before saying he was “wide open” to changes.

Biden made that concession even after a decision by the Senate parliamentarian that appeared to open the door to passing the historic American Jobs Plan without any Republican votes.

At least for now, the White House has kept its distance from that option by insisting the president wants to work toward a bipartisan victory.

Biden clearly is hoping the sheer boldness of the plan can win over critics as he compares it to building the Interstate Highway System and winning the Space Race.

“It’s the single largest investment in American jobs since World War II,” he said.

Republican opposition, however, continues to coalesce around the sweeping nature of the package, especially the attempt to broaden the very definition of infrastructure beyond traditional items, such as roads and bridges.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismisses the package as a liberal wish list and a Trojan horse for a huge tax increase, and he especially targets the president’s goal of raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent.

Biden perhaps faces even more serious opposition on that feature of the proposal from within his own party. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has made it clear he wants any corporate tax hike capped at 25 percent. He holds unusual power in the evenly divided Senate. Without Manchin and all other Democratic senators on board, Biden’s proposal presumably wouldn’t even get to the 50-50 tally that would allow Vice President Kamala Harris to cast her tie-breaking vote.

Congress ends its current recess the week of April 12, and the president said he and Harris will spend the next few weeks meeting with both Republicans and Democrats to hear their thoughts.

Biden has set what appears to be an ambitious schedule that includes progress on the proposal by Memorial Day and passage this summer.

“Inaction simply is not an option,” he said.

As part of his proposal, Biden called on Congress to provide an additional $17 billion in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry and ferries.

Shipping Act Violations

Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Daniel Maffei advised companies providing ocean transportation services to voluntarily take steps to address challenges associated with reports that exporters are being denied service in a way that may violate the Shipping Act.

“We must get to the bottom of this situation ASAP,” Maffei said, describing an ongoing investigation led by Commissioner Rebecca Dye as crucial.

“Commissioner Dye and I met with the leaders of two important House subcommittees. These issues clearly have their attention, and companies providing ocean transportation services would be well served to voluntarily take steps that address these challenges.”

Maffei offered that advice following a closed session the FMC held to discuss developments in the Fact Finding 29 investigation.

“While most participants in the supply chain are doing their best to cope with the unprecedented import boom, there are reports of container ship lines and terminal operators unfairly taking advantage of the situation or denying service to exporters in a way that may violate the Shipping Act,” he said.

Lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress have expressed concern over the reports being investigated by the FMC.

Updated Documentation Forms

The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) has posted updated forms for customers to use when applying for vessel documentation services.

Legacy forms, with a July 31, 2019, expiration date, will be accepted through January 1, 2022, NVDC stated.

The updated forms are available under NVDC’s Instructions And Forms link.

Updated fee schedules that take effect in January 2022 also were posted under the Fee Schedule tab.

Flood Insurance Pricing

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an update to the pricing methodology of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with a goal of fixing longstanding inequities and improving resilience to climate change.

“These updates will improve individual and community resilience, reduce disaster related suffering and ensure fairness,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose agency includes FEMA.

“Risk Rating 2.0 is equity in action.”

According to FEMA, the modernized methodology corrects unintentional inequities that resulted in policyholders with lower-value homes paying more they should while those with higher-value homes pay less than they should.

Nearly a quarter of the program’s policyholders are expected to see lower premiums.

With roughly $1.3 trillion in coverage, NFIP has more than five million policyholders in 22,500 communities across the nation.

In a news alert, the National Waterways Conference told its members FEMA was rolling out the new rates in phases with new policies subject to the new methodology beginning October 1 and all remaining policies subject to it when renewing on or after April 1, 2022.

Boat Station Consolidation

The Coast Guard announced its decision to consolidate Boat Stations (small) Shark River, Salem, Roosevelt Inlet and Fishers Island to increase staffing and capacity levels at nearby boat stations better equipped to respond to calls.

All four were satellite locations for larger parent stations to operate from during a select time period and did not have permanently assigned crew, the Coast Guard said, adding the consolidation will improve training, operational proficiency, maintenance and sustainability for the boat forces community while maintaining a response posture in support of the public.

For additional information, contact Todd Aikins at 202-372-2463.

Seaway Fees

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS) is revising its regulation to reflect fees and charges levied by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) of Canada starting in the 2021 navigation season, which are effective only in Canada.

An amendment to increase the minimum charge per lock for vessels that are not pleasure craft or subject in Canada to tolls under items 1 and 2 of the tariff for full or partial transit of the seaway will apply in the U.S.

The rule took effect March 24.

For additional information, contact Carrie Mann Lavigne at 315-764-3200.