Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Commandant Calls Waterways Commerce Cutter A Priority

Washington, D.C.—Updating Congress on Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) funding, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan called waterways and ports the engine for much of the $5.4 trillion in U.S. maritime commerce economic prosperity.

“So, getting that Waterways Commerce Cutter built and into operation is a priority,” the admiral told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Fagan said President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 includes $98 million to fund two Waterways Commerce Cutters as well as a long lead time for two more.

“We are on contract and look forward to begin building the Waterways Commerce Cutter,” she said as she sidestepped a question by Chairman Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) on whether the WCC could be ready by 2025.

“They are not a particularly complicated cutter and should begin to come into operation fairly quickly,” she said.

Leaders from both parties expressed concerns about other parts of the president’s budget for the Coast Guard.

Webster said the account that pays for items such as new vessels, aircraft and shoreside infrastructure would be funded at less than half the current level authorized by Congress.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), ranking member of the full committee, made it clear the $13.5 billion requested by the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2024, a 3.6 percent increase, would not be enough.

“We cannot expect to have a big-league Coast Guard with little-league funding,” Larsen said.

Fagan also testified on the Coast Guard’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security the following day.

Chairman Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) focused his questions on the delayed construction schedule for the Polar Security Cutter, the Great Lakes ice breaker needs and the WCC, which he described as mired in legal challenges.

House GOP Spending Plan

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finally showed President Joe Biden and the nation a Republican plan to “responsibly” raise the debt ceiling and save $4.5 trillion.

Biden, who repeatedly had urged McCarthy to show his budget, quickly rejected it as a “non-starter,” describing it as “wacko.”

McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the plan in a speech in the House and could schedule a floor vote in the coming days.

Named the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023,” which will be led by House Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), the plan includes returning discretionary spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, limiting growth of spending to 1 percent per year, clawing back billions in unspent COVID funds, repealing the hiring of 87,000 IRS agents, ending “green giveaways” and prohibiting a student loan “giveaway” for the wealthy.

Biden spoke at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 77 in Accokeek, Md., to contrast his vision for the economy with MAGA House Republicans’ vision, the White House stated.

The president urged McCarthy to pass a debt limit hike without linking it to “wacko” demands from his Republican caucus.

WOTUS Veto Override Fails

A House Republican-led effort to override President Joe Biden’s veto of a measure blocking his administration’s rule to redefine the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) fell short of the two-thirds vote needed.

With 10 Democrats joining nearly unified Republicans, the House voted 227 to 196 to override the president’s veto of H.J. Res. 27.

One Republican voted with Democrats against the override effort.

Key Republicans vowed to continue pushing back against the new WOTUS rule and pointed to two court decisions that halted the rule’s implementation in 26 states.

Democrats continued to defend the administration’s rule and the certainty they say it brings to protecting clean water.

FMC Delegation Of Authority

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced it is delegating authority to the Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations and Compliance (BEIC) to issue Notice(s) of Violations (NOV) and to compromise civil penalty claims subject to FMC review.

Without further action, the rule takes effect May 17.

“Delegation of authority to BEIC provides enhanced efficiency flexibility during the enforcement process while maintaining commission oversight,” the FMC stated.

For additional information, contact William Cody at 202-523-5725 or secretary@fmc.gov.

FMC Meeting Postponed

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) postponed its meeting scheduled for April 19 in Washington, D.C., until May 3.

Partly open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the FMC, 800 N. Capitol St. NW, 1st Floor Hearing Room, Washington, D.C.

It also will be streamed live on the FMC’s YouTube Channel.

Requests to register to attend the meeting in person should be submitted by 5 p.m. Eastern May 1 to secretary@fmc.gov and contain “May 3, 2023 Commission Meeting” in the subject line.

Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who have registered in advance.

Matters to be considered during the open part of the public meeting include updates and briefings on the Maritime Transportation Data Initiative, Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 and the Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations and Compliance.

For additional information, contact William Cody at 202-523-5725.