Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Two-Track Infrastructure Negotiations Advance

Washington, D.C.—Congressional leaders announced major movement toward a much-discussed two-track plan on both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger package that will need only Democratic votes to pass in an evenly divided Senate.

“We’re all on the same page. Both tracks, the bipartisan track and the budget reconciliation track, are proceeding at pace,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

“We hope to have votes on both of them in the Senate and in the House in July.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed, noting the importance of the timing of the “dual track.”

“We’re very excited about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement, and it takes us to whatever else we wanted to do,” Pelosi said.

Both Schumer and Pelosi agreed one cannot be done without the other.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also reported “productive meetings” with a bipartisan group of senators and White House senior staff.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement, and the president has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss this in person,” Psaki said.

Neither the congressional leaders nor the White House provided details of the two legislative measures.

“We’ll let them announce it first,” Schumer said when asked about the bipartisan bill.

Both Schumer and Pelosi said the dual-track approach will not keep their chambers from taking up separate infrastructure bills already in the legislative pipeline, such as major surface transportation bills that came out of committees on both sides of the Capitol.

Pelosi said the House committee version of the transportation bill could be on the floor in the coming days.

“Whatever is in the bipartisan bill would be subtracted from what we do next week,” she said.

If the dual-track approach that triggered a flurry of statements follows what has been discussed during weeks of negotiations, the bipartisan bill will be limited to traditional infrastructure items plus perhaps broadband.

It could have a price tag just north of $1 trillion but not include either a gas tax hike, a red line for President Joe Biden, or changes to the 2017 tax law, a red line for congressional Republicans.

The budget reconciliation measure is expected to include what some describe as human infrastructure or the care economy and is expected to have a much higher price tag.

Navigable Waters Rule

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led her fellow Republicans on that panel to challenge the “lack of transparency” surrounding the Biden administration’s decision to repeal and replace the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection rule.

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the senators said the two lead agencies have not provided a complete analysis to back up assertions linking the Trump-era rule to “significant environmental damage” and “implementation challenges.”

They requested that information no later than July 5.

Female Vice Commandant

Adm. Linda Fagan, the first woman to serve as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, became the service’s vice commandant.

Nominated by President Biden, Fagan was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.

Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard commandant, welcomed Fagan as the 32nd vice commandant.

“I am proud to be part of this historic moment and look forward to leading the Coast Guard alongside of you,” Schultz told her.

Fagan relieved Adm. Charles Ray, who had served as vice commandant since May 2018, during a change-of-watch ceremony at Coast Guard headquarters.

Ray retired from the Coast Guard after 40 years of service.

Just days after that ceremony, Schultz testified remotely to the House Homeland Security Committee on the Coast Guard’s efforts to develop a culture of equity, inclusion, justice and accountability.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in his opening statement those efforts have fallen short, citing continuing reports of disturbing allegations from whistleblowers.

Shultz assured the panel the Coast Guard is committed to investigating allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation.

Small Passenger Vessels

The Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CVC) issued work instruction CVC-WI-028 “Small Passenger Vessel Risk Based Inspection Program” to provide Officers in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI), Chiefs of Inspection Division (CID) and Marine Inspectors (MI) with inspection guidance for the small passenger vessels (SPV) risk-based inspection program.

 The work instruction also canceled CVC Policy Letter 20-02 “Inspection Guidance for High Risk Small Passenger Vessels” and CVC Policy Letter 16-05 “Risk-Based Decision Making (RBDM) for Small Passenger Vessel (SPV) Annual Inspection Activity.”

For additional information about the work instruction, email CGCVC@uscg.mil.

Great Lakes Ports

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs  Committee, said he will continue to work against “unfair policies or practices” that undercut the economic competitiveness of Great Lakes ports, especially those in his home state.

Writing in an op-ed in Great Lakes Seaway Review, Peters stated he has been encouraged by recent conversations with senior officials of the Biden administration, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

He specifically cited the different screening standards at the Port of Monroe and staff shortages at Customs and Border Protection at the state’s ports.