Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Spending Bills Await September Congressional Action

Washington, D.C.—Congress adjourned for its annual August break, leaving the heavy lifting on government funding until they get back after Labor Day.

House Republican leaders managed to push only one of the 12 spending bills through their chamber before sending lawmakers home a day early after a second bill stalled.

The Senate did not hold a floor vote on any of its spending bills before the recess, but both Democrats and Republicans applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee’s achievement of sending all 12 spending bills to the floor for the first time in five years.

According to current schedules, the Senate returns September 5, one week before the House is set to reconvene September 12.

Lawmakers will have until September 30, the last day of the current fiscal year, to send the spending bills to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Shutdown Ahead?

Citing the power and influence ultra-conservative Republicans now hold in the House, Democratic leaders predict the government is headed to a shutdown.

Some Republicans dismiss that prediction, suggesting that a stopgap measure as usual will be passed to keep the government funded while negotiations on the spending bills continue.

Not everyone embraces that approach.

“We should not fear a government shutdown,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the Freedom Caucus.

“Most of what we do up here is bad anyway.”

Credential Processing Time

Merchant mariners and the maritime community would be better served if the Coast Guard established a measure to assess the overall time to process credentials, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Currently, the GAO reported, the Coast Guard does not measure the performance of its overall processing time, which reflects the time from submission to the time the credential is issued.

That approach measures the time spent actively processing  applications but not the time the National Maritime Center waits for information from applicants, including the time allowed for applicants to complete testing requirements.

“Adding a measure to track performance of its overall credentialing processing time could help ensure the Coast  Guard remains responsive to mariners’ needs,” the GAO stated.

Those recommendations grew out of a study included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023.

GAO stated the Department of Homeland Security agreed with its recommendations.

Defense Authorization Act

The Senate easily passed its version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a major confrontation with the House, whose version includes contentious provisions pushed by ultra-conservative Republicans.

Approved by the Senate by a vote of 86 to 11, S. 2226 includes provisions impacting the Maritime Administration.

Clearly unacceptable to Democrats, the controversial provisions on abortion and other hot-button issues led to a 219-210 vote approving the House version.

There were other signs of trouble on getting to a compromise on the NDAA, which is viewed as must-pass legislation.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a joint statement applauding passage of the bill.

After the House passed its bill, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, accused “extremist” Republicans of promoting bigoted ideals.

Algal Blooms

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested public comment on an environmental assessment of a demonstration program on the causes of harmful algal blooms associated with water resources development projects and measures to prevent them.

Comments must be received by August 31.

Identified by docket number COE-2023-0009, they may be submitted via https://www.regulations.gov; by email to usarmy.pentagon.hqda-asa-cw.mbx.asa-cw-reporting@army.mil with the docket number in the subject line; or mail to HQ, U.S. Army Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, ATTN: Mr. Gib Owen, U.S. Army, 108 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310-0108.

Included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, the provisions direct program activities at the Great Lakes, tidal and inland waters of New Jersey, coastal and tidal waters of Louisiana, waterways of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California, Allegheny Reservoir Watershed in New York, Lake Okeechobee, Fla., and at any federal reservoir located in the Upper Missouri River Basin or the North Platte River Basin at the request and expense of another federal agency.

For additional information, contact Gib Owen at 571-274-1929 or usarmy.pentagon.hqda-asa-cw.mbx.asa-cw-reporting@army.mil.