Washington Waves
Washington Waves

House Pushes Appropriations Process; Senate Stalling

Washington, D.C.—Bills funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maritime Administration are among six fiscal year 2023 appropriations measures rolled into one huge bill and set for a House vote in the coming days.

That effort to speed up the current appropriations process will not be equaled by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has not released any of its 12 annual spending bills.

“It is time to put pen to paper,” a statement issued by the Senate panel’s Democratic majority said, adding “fair, responsible bills” will be released at the end of July.

That statement also conceded a bipartisan, bicameral topline agreement on appropriations remains out of reach.

 Without that agreement as well as one to resolve differences on key policy provisions included in the House bills, it appears a stopgap measure to keep the federal government funded will be needed, possibly until after the November elections.

“All said and done, before the election, the House has 23 legislative days left and the Senate 47 days,” the National Waterways Conference said in its recent Federal Spotlight newsletter.

“Based on the outcome of the election, it is anticipated that we could see FY2023 appropriations debate pushed to the end of December or in early 2023.”

Others tracking the appropriations process echo that assessment.

An extremely unusual wrinkle also has been added to that potential development.

Both the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), previously announced plans to retire at the end of the current Congress.

Other bills merged into the House minibus headed to a floor vote include those funding Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration; Financial Services and General Government; Interior and Environment; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Alaska And The Coast Guard

Responding to Sen. Dan Sullivan’s plan to hold up Coast Guard nominations until “serious bureaucratic failures” are addressed, the service said it continues to work with the Alaska senator and staff to address his concerns.

“Alaska is a key area of Coast Guard operations, and we greatly appreciate congressional support to make vital Coast Guard investments in the region,” the service said in a statement.

In announcing his plan, Sullivan said his state has been “jerked around” by the Coast Guard for years.

“I am just getting tired of them,” he told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

A Sullivan spokesman provided the following reply to the Coast Guard’s statement.

“It is our hope and expectation that once direct communication can be coordinated between the senator and the U.S. Coast Guard leadership, all concerns will be addressed,” he stated.

Ferry Grants Available

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced an opportunity to apply for $294.5 million in competitive grants under the fiscal year 2022 Passenger Ferry Grant Program ($36.5 million), the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program ($49 million) and the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program (roughly $209 million).

While applicants can choose to apply for only one grant program, FTA said, this combined solicitation will allow applicants to submit one application to multiple programs.

Proposals must be submitted electronically through the grants.gov ‘‘APPLY’’ function by 11:59 p.m. Eastern, September 6.

Instructions for applying can be found in the ‘‘FIND’’ module of grants.gov.

For additional information, email FTAFerryPrograms@dot.gov or contact Vanessa Williams at 202-366-4818.

TWIC Policy

Responding to inquiries from industry partners, the Office of Port & Facility Compliance explained that Policy Letter 12-04 entitled “30 Day Unescorted Access Extension To Individuals Awaiting Issuance and Activation Of A TWIC” (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) was canceled for several reasons.

Regulatory references in Policy Letter 12-04 were no longer accurate because they no longer pointed toward relevant information and they were no longer within the updated regulation.

“Regulations now state that ‘…the individual may be granted unescorted access to secure areas for a period of no longer than 30 consecutive days…’; therefore the timeframe was increased within the regulations from 7 to 30 days,” the Coast Guard reported on the Maritime Commons blog.

Three conditions are provided in order to be allowed 30 days unescorted access. One is to provide proof of an application for renewal of TWIC, a second is to present another identification credential that meets the requirements and, finally, the facility must confirm there are no other suspicious circumstances associated with the claim that a TWIC was lost, stolen or damaged.

If an individual cannot meet the requirements in the regulation, unescorted access shall not be granted.

 CG-FAC-2 is available to answer any further questions by emailing TWIC.HQ@uscg.mil.

Medical Advisory Committee

The National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct virtual meetings August 3–5 to discuss matters relating to medical certification determinations for issuance of licenses, certificates of registry and merchant mariners’ documents; medical standards and guidelines for the physical qualifications of operators of commercial vessels; medical examiner education; and medical research.

One of the committee’s working groups also is scheduled to meet.

Open to the public, the virtual meetings are set to begin at 10 a.m. EDT on all three days.

To ensure comments and documentation are received by committee members before the meeting, they should be submitted no later than July 27, and the preferred method is through www.regulations.gov.

For an alternative method on submitting written material, information on joining the virtual meetings or to request special accommodations, contact Dr. Adrienne Buggs at 202-372-1211 or at adrienne.m.buggs@uscg.mil.

The number of virtual lines will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Agendas for each of the meetings are available in the July 13 Federal Register.