Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Leaders Scramble To Prevent Government Shutdown

Washington, D.C.—Top leaders in both chambers of Congress insisted they wanted to keep federal agencies funded even as they seemed to be running out of time to avoid a weekend government shutdown. Moreover, their actions appeared to be moving the two chambers further apart.

Funding for Ukraine and its war with Russia became a major sticking point along with the challenges the U.S. faces on its southern border.

In the Senate, funding for Ukraine was included in a bipartisan agreement that would extend government funding and avert a shutdown through November 17.

Drawing overwhelming support in a procedural vote, that proposal also included funding for communities struck by disaster, wildland firefighters, nutrition programs for millions of women and children and community health centers. Other provisions in the proposal would extend authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration to the end of this calendar year.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dismissed the Senate’s work and made it clear that bill would not get a floor vote in his chamber even though some thought it had the votes to pass and break the shutdown impasse. Instead, McCarthy, who has been under immense pressure from hard-right members of his own party to cut spending, said the House would take up its own stopgap measure.

McCarthy told reporters that vote would occur on Friday even if the measure lacked enough support from his own party to pass.

Funding for Ukraine was not expected to be in the House Republican proposal.

McCarthy focused his remarks on the challenges the U.S. faces on its southern border, indicating provisions would be included in the measure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), usually a strong McCarthy ally, pointed out that shutting down the government would stop pay for the very U.S. border agents Republicans wanted to support.

Democrats continued to put pressure on McCarthy.

“The fact is that I think that the speaker is making a choice between the speakership and American interest,” President Joe Biden said during a visit to California, McCarthy’s home state.

CWA Project Deadline

November 27 will be the effective date of a final rule on advancing federally permitted projects in a clear and timely way under the Clean Water Act Section 401. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its new rule September 27 in the Federal Register, officially establishing the effective date 60 days later.

The EPA claimed it is boosting transparency, timeliness and predictability on water projects by restoring the authority granted to states, territories and tribes. Key Republican critics warned the new rule will reinforce the weaponization of the law to block such projects.

The EPA announced plans to continue its outreach effort on its final Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Improvement Rule. For additional information, contact Lauren Kasparek at 202-564-3351 or cwa401@epa.gov.

Container Strike Force

The Coast Guard announced it conducted more than 700 identification credential checks and inspected more than 300 containers during a recent Multi-Agency Strike Force Operation (MASFO) at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Involving seven partner agencies, the Coast Guard stated, the MASFO’s primary goal was to ensure the safe and legal transportation of containerized cargo.

“The success of this operation reflects the strength of unified agency efforts,” Chief Petty Officer John Herman said. “By combining our expertise and resources, we enhanced the overall safety and security of maritime commerce, ensuring shipping container integrity and enabling access to MTSA regulated facilities by authorized personnel.”

Quick Implementation Urged

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) applauded the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement of Marine Highway project grants and urged that the nearly $12 million be available without delay.

“It is imperative, as with all USDOT discretionary grant programs, that these funds are distributed quickly, with no red tape or excessive permitting slowdowns,” AAPA stated.

“Speedy implementation of the grant projects this year is crucial to growing USMHP (United States Marine Highway Program) and ensuring that critical goods get moved through our supply chain smoothly and efficiently.”

Describing the USMHP as a mainstay of its advocacy, AAPA said the program funds infrastructure and equipment for expanding waterborne shipping, “the safest, greenest and cheapest form of freight transport.”

“Investments in America’s seaports are good for the U.S. and its trading prowess,” said  Cary Davis, AAPA’s incoming president and CEO.

“AAPA and the port industry thank our seaports champions in Congress, the federal government and MarAD (Maritime Administration) Administrator Rear Adm. Phillips in particular, for their commitment to strengthening the United States’ maritime supply chain.”

Notably, AAPA said, the program has been expanded this year to acknowledge the U.S.’s North American supply chain integration.

“It now includes water routes to Canada and Mexico,” AAPA stated.

Boating Safety Committee

The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee and its subcommittees are scheduled to meet virtually October 17 to discuss matters relating to boating safety. Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at noon EST.

To ensure comments are received before the meeting, they should be submitted by October 11, preferably via www.regulations.gov, under docket number USCG-2010-0164. Pre-registration is required, and virtual lines will be limited on a first-come, first-served basis.

For additional information, contact Jeff Decker at 202-372-1507 or NBSAC@uscg.mil as soon as possible.