Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Democrats In Congress Face Critical Deadlines This Week

Washington, D.C.—Congressional Democratic leaders pivoted from corralling their own members into supporting two infrastructure packages worth trillions of dollars to playing a game of political chicken with Republicans over keeping the government from shutting down, raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default.

They have until September 30 to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government open.

By a vote of 220 to 211, the House passed a bill extending federal funding through December 3 along with $28.6 billion in emergency disaster relief and $6.3 billion to support evacuees from Afghanistan.

Democrats also included language in H.R. 5305 to suspend the debt limit through December 2022.

Senate Republicans announced they would not go along with the debt limit language.

Senate rules that usually require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass significant legislation give them the power to kill the bill in that evenly divided chamber.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has informed Congress that “extraordinary measures” used to fund the government will be exhausted sometime in October without action on the debt limit and warned of serious harm to the nation’s economy.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders continue to face challenges in maintaining their two-track approach on moving the infrastructure proposals.

A key deadline for the smaller, traditional bill that already has passed the Senate with bipartisan support is September 27.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has committed to passing that bill, which includes $17 billion for ports and waterways, by that date.

That pleased moderates in her caucus, but progressives want movement on the bigger so-called human infrastructure bill that they hope will have a price tag of at least $3.5 trillion.

That bill is not expected to attract any Republican votes, forcing Senate Democrats to use a budget process to pass it.

Maritime Worker Training

A bipartisan bill to establish a grant program to boost training for workers  in the maritime workforce was introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Ben Cardin, D-Md.

“A qualified maritime workforce is essential for our national security and economic prosperity,” Wicker said.

 “However, there is currently a shortage of licensed workers with the appropriate training and technical skills to meet the needs of this growing industry.”

Cardin described the maritime industries surrounding the Port of Baltimore as key components in his state’s economic growth.

The Maritime Technological Advancement Act would authorize the Maritime Administration to provide funding for two-year public institutions of higher education to develop, offer or improve programs for workers related to the maritime workforce along the nation’s coasts, Mississippi River System, the Great Lakes and other inland waterways; support initiatives to expand an institution’s capacity to train the maritime workforce; and authorize $40 million annually for fiscal year 2022 through 2026.

Supply Chain Resilience

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking information from the public addressing challenges to supply chain resilience in the freight and logistics sectors as part of President Joe Biden’s effort to secure and strengthen the nation’s supply chains.

Hoping to receive practical solutions from a broad range of stakeholders, DOT said it will use the information in preparing a report required by an executive order issued by Biden.

Comments must be received by October 18, but those arriving after that deadline may be considered to the extent practical, DOT stated.

Submissions may be made electronically at www.regulations.gov; by mail at Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building, Ground Floor (W12–140), Washington, DC 20590–0001; or by hand at W12–140 of the Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.

For additional information, contact Ryan Endorf at 202-366-4835.

Competitiveness Committee

The Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness is scheduled to meet October 21 to discuss supply chain congestion, freight movement, workforce development and  other issues.

To be held via Webex, the public meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

A final agenda will be posted on the Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services website at www.trade.gov/acscc, at least one week prior to the meeting.

Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. October 14 to ensure they are transmitted to the committee before the meeting.

They can be submitted to Richard Boll at richard.boll@trade.gov along with questions about participation.

Space is expected to be limited.

Pay.gov Issues

The National Maritime Center (NMC) said a problem that required mariners to pay an additional fee to complete a Pay.gov transaction has been resolved, and the Merchant Mariner User Fee Payment Form is now functioning properly.

“Mariners who believe that they were prevented from providing an Examination and/or Issuance Fee payment without also paying another Evaluation Fee should send their Pay.gov receipts, reflecting the additional fees, to IASKNMC@uscg.mil with a request for a refund,” the NMC stated.

According to the agency, the problem impacted mariners attempting to pay Examination and/or Issuance Fees after previously paying their Evaluation Fee during the last 90 days.

“Mariners who paid all required fees via a single Pay.gov transaction were unaffected,” the NMC said.

Additional information regarding fee payments can be found in the User Fee FAQs on the NMC website.

Mariners with additional questions were advised to contact the NMC Customer Service Center at 1-888-IASKNMC (427- 5662) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST.

Turntable Pin Warning

The Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis notified mariners of a “potentially dangerous” situation involving the turntable pin on accommodation ladders.

“Currently, there are no established timelines or requirements to replace turntable pins,” Marine Safety Alert 05-21 stated.

“Without proper and periodic examination and replacement, corrosion can ultimately lead to structural failure.”

That alert was issued after an incident resulting in an injury of a crewmember onboard a foreign freight vessel.

Vessel owners and operators were urged by the Coast Guard to maintain turntable pins, periodically inspect their condition and replace them when necessary and revise accommodation ladder maintenance plans to include turntable pins.

REC New York Reopens

Regional Exam Center (REC) New York has reopened for examination services in the Federal Building at 201 Varick St. in Lower Manhattan, the National Maritime Center (NMC) announced.

According to the NMC, the new mailing address is 201 Varick St., 9th Floor, Suite 904, New York, NY 10014, and mariner applications may still be emailed to RECNY@uscg.mil.

Mariner examination services will continue to be provided by appointment only, the NMC stated, adding no walk-in appointments are available.

Examination appointment requests may be emailed to RECNY@uscg.mil and should include the applicant’s name, mariner reference number, requested testing date(s), phone number and a copy of their Approved to Test letter(s).

Vessel Titles

The Coast Guard has proposed changes to its regulations for certifying a state’s titling system for undocumented vessels and preventing “title washing,” which allows severe damage to be concealed by transferring a vessel’s title to another state.

Described as the “most significant change,” a system of “branding” or permanently marking titles for vessels that have sustained structural damage would be implemented.

States that have adopted recommendations of the model Uniform Certificate of Title Act for Vessels would be allowed to certify their titling provisions with the Coast Guard.

Once certified and participating in the Vessel Identification System, a state is able to confer preferred mortgage status on financial instruments that apply to undocumented vessels, which benefits the owners of those vessels.

Comments and related material must be received by the Coast Guard on or before November 22, the same deadline for  comments sent to the Office of Management and Budget.

For additional information, contact W. Vann Burgess at 202-372-1071.