Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Funding for Ports and Waterways

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democrats announced an agreement on a historic $3.5 trillion budget resolution they plan to pass on a simple majority vote with no support from Republicans.

If their agreement holds, it will open the door to a vote on a separate bipartisan proposal on traditional infrastructure.

Democratic leaders have insisted that both measures move on a dual-track approach.

While the bipartisan framework includes so-called traditional or hard infrastructure such as roads, the budget resolution will include what is described as the human or care economy.

Funding for ports and waterways is expected to total $16 billion in the bipartisan measure.

Neither has been put in legislative text, and the budget resolution, for now, provides the topline figure, with details to be filled in later.

“Updates will be forthcoming, as this budget resolution and related legislation are advanced,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, describing the budget resolution as “once-in-a-generation progress for families.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the landmark measure will include a Medicare expansion to include dental, vision and hearing, and green infrastructure such as electric vehicles, renewable power and resiliency projects.

While no tax increases for families making under $400,000 or small businesses will be included, Schumer said, certain tax breaks for the wealthy will end.

He has planned votes on both measures before senators begin their traditional August break.

Under the budget reconciliation procedure to be used on the sweeping legislation, all 50 Democrats will have to be united to allow Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote.

“We’re going to get this done,” President Joe Biden said when asked about keeping all Democrats on board.

Connor Supports Users Board

Essentially defunct this entire year, the Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB) may have won a significant boost from President Biden’s nominee to be the next assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Michael Connor said he would work with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to reinforce the importance of the IWUB with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin so it  can be reactivated as  quickly as possible.

“Yes. I will work with you on that,” Connor told Duckworth during his nomination hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In response to other questions, Connor expressed enthusiastic  support for dredging shipping channels to keep them open and safe and to use the dredged material for restoration and other projects.

“It’s just a win, win, win all around,” he said.

On the Biden administration’s bid to replace the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule, Connor said his goal would be a new rule with enough clarity to end the cycle of litigation and be in place for a number of years.

Connor’s nomination also received a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Shipping Competition

President Biden pushed the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) toward vigorous enforcement against shippers charging American exporters exorbitant charges as part of an executive order to promote competition. (See related article in this 7/19/21 issue)

“In maritime shipping, the global marketplace has rapidly consolidated,” states a White House fact sheet on the executive order.

“In 2000, the largest 10 shipping companies controlled 12 percent of the market. Today, it is more than 80 percent, leaving domestic manufacturers who need to export goods at these large foreign companies’ mercy.”

Biden also wants the FMC to request recommendations from the National Shipper Advisory Committee for improving detention and demurrage practices  and enforcement related to the Shipping Act and consider further rulemaking in that area.

His order covers several other agencies.

FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei, who was named to his post by Biden in March, attended the White House signing ceremony.

In a statement, Maffei applauded the president for his “all hands on deck” call to ensure fair competition across the supply chain.

He cited the FMC’s increased scrutiny of ocean carrier alliances.

“With regard to detention and demurrage charges, it remains a top priority of the agency,” Maffei said.

He issued the statement as an individual member of the FMC and referenced the FMC as an independent agency led by five independent commissioners.

Following Biden’s order, Maffei and acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers signed the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding between the FMC and the Department of Justice.

CBP Staff Shortfalls

Members of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) urged Congress to address chronic staff shortfalls at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), blaming the shortages for exacerbating congestion at ports.

In a meeting with Republican leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee, the AAPA members also suggested that Congress call for an immediate halt on facilities demands at ports and require a report from CBP about their needs.

AAPA stated CPB has been demanding ports pay for on-site facilities for CBP’s officers, including often “extravagant items.”

To alleviate bottlenecks at ports, AAPA said, ports also have been paying for overtime reimbursement to CBP officers.

AAPA’s press release included supportive comments from the top Republican on the House Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee.

“Congress must fully fund and invest in CBP to ensure seaports don’t continue to bear the burden of facilitating unbearable demands,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said.

“The work our seaports conduct to facilitate trade and commerce is essential to our economic recovery. Security at our ports has never been more important.”

CG And Climate Change

The Coast Guard is seeking input from the public on specific programs, regulations, policies and procedures that it should consider changing to combat climate change.

“This information will help the Coast Guard effectively achieve its missions in a manner that advances the administration’s urgent priorities of climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience,” the Coast Guard stated in the Federal Register.

Comments must be submitted by October 6 to the online docket via https:// www.regulations.gov.