Washington, D.C.—Top congressional Democrats have marked July as their infrastructure month with action expected on both a trillion-dollar bipartisan bill and a much larger budget reconciliation package to be passed with only their party’s votes.
Neither measure has been put into legislative text, but developments seem to be going the Democrats’ way.
The House approved the INVEST in America Act, a multi-year, $715-billion surface transportation, drinking water and wastewater authorization bill that sponsors say lays the groundwork for President Joe Biden’s vision for the nation’s infrastructure.
Even though Republican leaders dismissed it as a partisan messaging bill and predicted its defeat in the Senate, H.R. 3684 passed by a vote of 221 to 201 with the support of two Republicans.
Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, congratulated the House for passage of the bill, calling it an important milestone, but sidestepped a question on whether the measure will be used as a framework for the bipartisan bill.
“This is the legislative process in real time working its will,” Deese told reporters.
Even though details of that bipartisan deal reached by Biden and a small group of senators have not been worked out, it received a boost from a formal endorsement of the House Problem Solvers Caucus.
Made up of 58 members equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, the caucus also called for an expeditious, stand-alone vote on the proposal.
Those 29 Republican votes could provide a crucial cushion for House Democrats who hold a narrow majority in their chamber, but a quick vote on the bipartisan package could present a challenge to the strategy embraced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Pelosi wants to move the bipartisan plan in tandem with the much larger package expected from Senate Democrats who plan on passing it under budget reconciliation rules that will not require any Republican votes.
She has said the House would vote on the bipartisan package “as soon as we see a reconciliation bill.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed with the two-track approach, and both leaders want votes to be held before the August recess.
Senators are scheduled to return for legislative session on Monday, July 12, with the House returning one week later.
DERA, Great Lakes Funding
Programs to reduce diesel emissions and restore the Great Lakes and other significant bodies of water would receive a boost in funding in fiscal year 2022 under a bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants would receive $150 million, an increase of $60 million over the amount in the enacted fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill.
Funding for programs to restore major bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound would receive $642.7 million for fiscal year 2022, an increase of $100.8 million above the current fiscal year’s enacted level and $64.4 million more than the president’s request.
Approved by a 32-24 vote, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies funding bill includes $43.4 billion in regular appropriations, an increase of $7.3 billion, or 20.2 percent.
It now goes to the full House.
NVDC Customer Survey
The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) has posted a customer survey to receive customer feedback to help efforts to improve the Vessel Documentation Program.
“Your opinion matters to us,” the NVDC stated, adding it “is committed to providing you with excellent customer service.”
The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RT7M8XR.
New York REC Closed
The Regional Exam Center (REC) in New York will be closed while its historic location in Battery Park undergoes major renovation for at least a year, the National Maritime Center (NMC) announced.
During the renovation, the NMC said REC New York will be relocated to an alternate office space in lower Manhattan at 201 Varick St., 9th Floor, Suite 904, New York, N.Y. 10014.
That location is expected to be opened on July 26.
Mariner applications still may be emailed to RECNY@uscg.mil.
Mariners seeking to complete examinations during this period should consider testing at another REC location, the NMC stated, adding that information on other locations along with submission information can be found on its website.
The NMC said it will issue additional information and update the NMC website confirming the reopening date, examination room hours, how to schedule an exam and building access provisions for the new facility.
Its customer service center remains open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Mariners also may reach the NMC by calling the call center at 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662) or by email at IASKNMC@uscg.mil.
Recreational Boating Statistics
Boating fatalities nationwide totaled 767 in 2020, a 25.1 percent jump from 2019, the Coast Guard reported.
According to the Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, similar trends were reported in the total number of accidents, which climbed from 4,168 to 5,265, a 26.3 percent jump, and in the total number of non-fatal injured victims, which rose from 2,559 to 3,191, a 24.7 percent increase.
Roughly $62.5 million in property damage was reported.
“There is evidence that boating activity increased significantly during the pandemic, from reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance,” the report stated.
Alcohol use again was listed as the “leading known contributing factor” in fatal boating accidents, accounting for more than 100 deaths, or 18 percent of total 2020 fatalities.
Other important statistics: where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of the fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims with with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket; 77 percent of the deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.
Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.