Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden dismissed a failed Senate procedural vote that blocked a bipartisan infrastructure deal that includes $16 billion for ports and waterways.
“At the end of the day, it’s irrelevant,” Biden said of the 49-51 vote, short of the 60 needed to pass.
Speaking Wednesday at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, the president suggested negotiators could complete their work as early as Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) switched his vote, reserving the right to schedule another vote later.
Meanwhile, a group of House Democrats warned the trillion-dollar Senate deal could face growing opposition in their chamber.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led 30 of his panel’s members to urge congressional leaders to include key provisions included in his INVEST in America Act in any bicameral infrastructure legislation.
Passed by the House, DeFazio’s surface transportation measure is being used by Schumer as a shell bill to kick off proceedings on his chamber’s bipartisan deal, a tactic Republicans rejected.
House Appropriations Bills
The House is expected to consider several appropriations bills in the coming days for fiscal year 2022 that include funding for the Army Corps of Engineers program and the Maritime Administration.
Approved by a vote of 33 to 24, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill would provide $8.6 billion for the Corps’ Civil Works program, a hike of $862.9 million above the current year’s enacted level.
Investigations would receive $155 million, $2 million above the level for fiscal year 2021; construction, $2.6 billion; and operation and maintenance, $4.8 billion, an increase of $967.3 million above fiscal year 2021 level.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects would receive an estimated $2.05 billion, an increase of $370 million above fiscal year 2021 level.
In a press statement, Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) singled out the bill’s “strong” funding for the Corps and the $22 million in community project (formerly earmarks) funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP).
WCI said NESP was the most requested project in the funding bill.
Also approved by a vote of 33 to 24, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill includes $1.2 billion for national infrastructure investments under the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program, an increase of $200 million.
It includes $1.3 billion for the Maritime Administration, a hike of $84 million.
That would provide $318 million for the Maritime Security Program, $60 million to establish the Tanker Security Fleet program, $300 million for the Port Infrastructure Development program, an increase of $70 million, and $320.6 million for school ship construction and related shore-side infrastructure.
VOCC Audit Program
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) launched a new audit program to assess carrier compliance with the agency’s rule on detention and demurrage, an issue that has caught the attention of President Biden and key members of Congress.
Established at the direction of FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei, the Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit Program is to provide additional information beneficial to the regular monitoring of the marketplace for ocean cargo services.
Maffei said the FMC is committed to making certain the law is followed and that shippers do not suffer from unfair disadvantage.
VHF Message Phase-Out
The Coast Guard is seeking public comments on possibly phasing out distribution of Scheduled Navigation Safety Messages by routine VHF radio broadcasts.
Comments must be submitted to the online docket at www.regulations.gov by August 16.
“The Coast Guard has received public feedback indicating that mariners prefer the real-time accessibility of mobile and internet access to this information over scheduled VHF broadcasts, because access is more timely, reliable, convenient, and customizable,” the notice in the Federal Register stated.
“Also, some mariners have reported that VHF broadcast notice to mariners are bothersome, because they are perceived as unnecessary radio clutter that can be distracting when maneuvering along a dock, in ports or other areas of congested traffic.”
For additional information, call Eugene Diotalevi at 703-313-5800.
Port Security Grant Program
The Port Security Grant Program was allocated $100 million to help protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve port-wide maritime security risk management, and maintain or re-establish maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resiliency capabilities.
That allocation was part of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ announcement on final allocations totaling $475 million for seven fiscal year 2021 competitive preparedness grant programs.
The National Maritime Center (NMC) announced more than 1,200 mariners have completed at least 3,000 examination modules using a centralized electronic delivery process (via email) for renewal examinations launched in May 2020.
“The feedback regarding the improved communications and significant reduction in processing time is overwhelmingly positive,” the NMC said, adding it discourages requests to mail hardcopy examinations that introduce significant delays.
Directions on obtaining an electronic examination can be found on approval to test (ATT) letters for renewal examinations issued on or after May 1, 2020, and on the NMC Examinations Page website.
For additional information or to provide feedback, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil or calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).
The Army Corps of Engineers issued a final rule adjusting civil monetary penalties (CMP) under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1922 (RHA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Fishing Enhancement Act (NFEA) to account for inflation.
Effective July 15, the rule is required under federal law to improve the effectiveness and maintain the deterrent effect of the penalties.
For additional information, contact Paul Clouse at 202–761–4709 for the RHA portion and Karen Mulligan at 202-761-4664 for the CWA and NFEA portions.
The Coast Guard announced the cancellation of several obsolete Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circulars (NVIC).
While NVICs do not have the force of law, they ensure Coast Guard inspections and other regulatory actions conducted by field personnel are complete and consistent, and the marine industry and the general public rely on them to assess how the Coast Guard will enforce certain regulations or conduct various marine safety programs.
A list of the NVICs being repealed can be found in the July 15 Federal Register.
For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Peter Bizzaro at 202-372-1135.