Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Stopgap Measure Funds Government Until February 18

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden signed another stopgap measure to keep federal agencies funded until February 18 and urged Congress to use that time to reach a bipartisan agreement on funding the remainder of fiscal year 2022.

Funding the government is the “bare minimum of what we need to get done,” Biden said.

Partisan differences clearly persist following the back-to-back votes in the House and Senate that sent the bill to Biden’s desk.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, even launched a calendar on Twitter to track what she called Republican obstruction.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said an agreement must be reached on legacy riders, poison pills and defense spending.

“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be having this same conversation in February,” Shelby said.

Debt Ceiling

Top leaders in the Senate closed in on an unusual procedure to resolve the issue of raising the nation’s debt ceiling for both parties.

According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the “one-time-only” procedure would need a 60-vote majority for approval.

If successful, Senate Democrats would be allowed to raise the nation’s debt limit with a simple majority vote with no Republican support.

“I think this is in the best interest of the country by avoiding default,” McConnell said, reminding reporters Republicans still oppose Democrats’ spending plan under President Biden’s Build Back Better program.

McConnell added the procedure also “allows the Democrats to proudly own it, which they are happy to do.”

Senate Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) welcomed McConnell’s assistance.

“Our goal has been to increase the debt limit. We want a simple majority without a convoluted, risky, lengthy process. It looks like the Republicans will help us facilitate that,” Schumer said.

Again he said the Senate Democrats’ goal is to approve Biden’s Build Back Better plan by Christmas.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave initial approval to the process to allow Senate Democrats to lift the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote rather than the 60-vote margin usually required for major legislation.

“This is as serious as it gets in terms of public policy,” Pelosi said, noting the negative impact of even discussing the possibility of not passing a debt limit hike on time.

She expressed confidence Congress will finish with the matter before the crucial mid-December timing laid out by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

DOT Strategic Framework

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking public comment on a draft version of its Strategic Framework for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

Comments may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, by email at dotstrategicplanning@dot.gov or via U.S. mail at Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Room PL–401, Washington, DC 20590–0001.

The comment period closes December 17.

Such updates at the beginning of a presidential term are required by law for agencies and must include input from stakeholders.

According to DOT, its draft version reflects Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s priorities for achieving DOT’s mission through six strategic goals: Safety, Economic Strength and Global Competitiveness, Equity, Climate and Sustainability, Transformation and Organizational Excellence.

More details can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/dot-strategic-plan.

For additional information, contact Juli Huynh at dotstrategicplanning@dot.gov.

Proposed WOTUS Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officially published their proposed rule to define the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and gave the public until February 7 to comment.

Comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov (the agencies’ preferred method) or by email at OW-Docket@epa.gov.

Virtual public hearings are scheduled at 10 a.m. Eastern January 12, 2 p.m. Eastern January 13 and 5 p.m. Eastern January 18.

To register for the hearings, go to www.epa.gov/wotus.

“This proposal marks a key milestone in the regulatory process announced in June,” stated the EPA, whose goal is to bring back the pre-2015 definition of WOTUS with updates reflecting Supreme Court decisions.

For additional information, contact Damaris Christensen of the EPA at 202-564-2281 or Stacey Jensen of the Corps at 703-459-6026.

NVDC Online Ordering

The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) announced a January 1 roll out of an expanded online ordering system available through its website at www.uscg.mil/nvdc.

Customers will be able to use the new eStorefront to apply electronically for products such as a multi-year Certificate of Documentation (COD) for recreational vessels, one-year CODs for vessels with commercial and/or registry endorsements, an Abstract of Title (A/T) and a Certified Copy of COD (CCOD).

Not all products and services will be immediately available, the NVDC said; however, additional enhancements are planned over the next 12 months.

During the transition, customers can still visit pay.gov directly to order one-year CODs, A/Ts and CCODs.

Qualified Assessors

The Coast Guard announced the availability of Change 3 to Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 19–14 Policy on Qualified Assessors (QAs) that provides guidance to mariners on assessments of competence for STCW endorsements.

Under the revision that took effect October 29, the Coast Guard will accept assessments of competence signed before January 1, 2024, by a person who is not a Coast Guard-approved QA.

For additional information, contact James Cavo at 202-372-1205.