Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Democrat Leaders Push For House Vote On Infrastructure Bill

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden and top House Democrats pushed for a floor vote on a trillion-dollar traditional infrastructure bill that includes $17 billion for ports and waterways after Biden announced a framework for a $1.7 trillion human infrastructure package.

“We are whipping this,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said on CNN of the traditional infrastructure bill that passed the Senate months ago with bipartisan support.

Aguilar’s comment indicated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was moving forward with a floor vote. Previously Pelosi has said she would never put a bill on the floor without assurances it had the votes to pass.

She has little wriggle room as Democrats currently control the House with fewer than 10 votes.

It remained unclear whether Biden’s framework on expanding the social safety net package would be enough for progressive Democrats who have been insisting on seeing more before voting on the traditional infrastructure bill.

Writing the actual bill on such a historic piece of legislation could take at least days and maybe even weeks.

On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is evenly split 50-50, and the massive social safety net package is not expected to get any support from Republicans.

That means Democrats need every vote, including two moderate holdouts.

After delivering a nationally televised speech from the White House, Biden left for a previously scheduled trip to Europe.

Supply Chain Bottlenecks

The White House continued to report progress on President Joe Biden’s effort to address supply chain bottlenecks and go to a 24/7 pace at ports and other modes of transportation.

Press secretary Jen Psaki singled out an announcement by Union Pacific, one of two railroads servicing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, that it will be offering a cash incentive through the end of the year for shipping containers that move during the weekend.

LA and Long Beach already have moved more containers this year than in any previous year, Psaki said, pointing out two more months still remain in 2021.

Reports on the ground, however, do not track with her optimistic assessment.

Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced they will begin charging a daily fee for shipping containers that “linger” on terminals.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero pointed to the escalating backlog of ships off the coast.

John Porcari, Biden’s port envoy, expressed support for the ports’ decision, saying it will expedite the movement of goods and reduce congestion at ports.

WOTUS Definition

Top Republicans on a key House panel accused the Biden administration of limiting input from the public on its proposal to come up with a new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition.

Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.) leveled the charge after the two lead agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, requested self-nomination letters from communities to organize roundtables on regional implications of their effort on WOTUS.

According to their posting in the October 25 Federal Register, the agencies intend to host 10 regionally focused roundtables that will be made available for public viewing.

The roundtables will not exceed 15 individuals.

Graves, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also noted the Federal Register notice came only nine days before the November 3 deadline for nomination letters.

“At the very least, they should have allowed more time for the public to consider nominations,” he said.

In its rush to reach a pre-determined political outcome, Graves said, the process fails to ensure all who want to participate can do so.

Rouzer, the ranking member of the House panel’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, said the administration has abandoned its commitment to an open and transparent process.

Heavy Weather

The Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis released Marine Safety Alert 07-21, on how unexpected heavy weather events and rapid changes in weather have contributed to notable and deadly marine casualties in recent years.

“Although modern day forecasting has improved, and mariners and recreational boaters have the ability to receive updates and warnings through a wide variety of means, weather related maritime disasters continue to occur,” the alert stated.

To prepare for weather events or rapid changes in weather, the Coast Guard used the alert to make a number of recommendations, ranging from making sure vessels are equipped with at least two different and reliable methods to obtain weather information to understanding a vessel’s operations limitations.

Additional information can be found in the alert on the Coast Guard’s website, and questions may be sent to HQS-SMB-CG-INV@uscg.mil.

Fire Extinguishing Equipment

The Coast Guard announced it is amending fire extinguishing equipment regulations for certain recreational vessels to relieve owners of these recreational vessels from inspection, maintenance and recordkeeping requirements more suited to commercial vessels.

To make it easier to find these regulations, this rule also relocates the regulations to another part of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Effective April 20, the rule applies to recreational vessels  propelled or controlled by propulsion machinery.

To view documents go to www.regulations.gov, type USCG–2018– 0099 in the ‘‘SEARCH’’ box and click ‘‘SEARCH.’’

For additional information, call Jeffrey Decker at 202-372-1507.

Primary Highway Freight System

The Federal Highway Administration announced an extension of the comment period for the Re-Designation of the Primary Highway Freight System.

Originally scheduled to close October 25, the comment period has been extended until December 15.

Comments may be submitted via www.regulations.gov, fax at 1-202-493-2251, mail at Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20590, or hand delivery at U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20590.

For additional information, contact Birat Pandey at 202-366-2842.

Lakes Pilotage Committee

The Coast Guard is requesting nominations for persons interested in serving on the Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee, which advises the secretary of Homeland Security through the Coast Guard commandant.

Applications should reach the Coast Guard by December 20 and should be emailed to GreatLakesPilotage@uscg.mil.

For additional information, contact Vincent Berg at 202-906-0835.

Civil Monetary Penalties

Annual inflation adjustments to civil monetary penalties levied by the Coast Guard and other agencies took effect October 18 under a final rule published by the Department of Homeland Security.

All agencies are required to adjust civil monetary penalties annually by a 2015 law.

For additional information, contact Hillary Hunnings at 202-282-9043.