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Twenty-One Days and Counting – No Wall, No Deal

It is now twenty-one days into the partial government shutdown over President Trump’s demand that Congress appropriate $5.7 billion for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and negotiations to resolve the shutdown have shown little to no progress.  As of this Saturday, the shutdown will officially become the longest in U.S. history.  In an effort to reopen impacted agencies, the House passed three spending bills to reopen the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  The spending bills do not include funding for the wall, so, as a result, the legislation will not be considered by the Republican-led Senate.

As of this writing, reports indicate that the Administration is mulling over the possibility of declaring a national emergency at the southern border as a way to build the wall.  If the Administration declares a national emergency, it would allow the president to bypass congressional approval to receive funds.  The Administration may be considering disaster funding Congress appropriated last year, which includes $13.9 billion in funding for civil works projects that has so far gone unspent.

If a national emergency does occur, Congress would likely pass a yearlong continuing resolution for the unfunded agencies through the end of the fiscal year 2019, which ends on September 30, 2019.  However, Congressional Democrats have already started the process of exploring their legal and legislative options to respond to the president declaring a national emergency, if it does happen.

How the Effects of the Government Shutdown Are Piling Up – New York Times

Senate Committee to Consider Nomination of USEPA Administrator

On January 16, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) will consider President Trump’s nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).  Wheeler is currently USEPA’s Acting Administrator.

Committee Democrats are questioning how Wheeler can prepare for his nomination hearing when USEPA is currently closed due to the partial government shutdown.  In a letter sent to Wheeler this week, Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), along with three other committee Democrats, expressed concern how USEPA employees, who are furloughed during the government shutdown, are tasked with preparing Wheeler for the hearing and if this uses “resources that are not described in or authorized under [US]EPA’s Contingency Plan.” 

New Committee Assignment Selections

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced new House Democrat committee assignments.  Below are the new assignments.

Committee on Energy and Commerce

Eight democrats will join this committee. The new members include:

  • Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA)
  • Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)
  • Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA)
  • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
  • Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL)
  • Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH)
  • Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
  • Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)

Committee on Ways and Means

Ten new members will join this committee.  The new members include:

  • Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)
  • Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)
  • Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
  • Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)
  • Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)
  • Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
  • Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)
  • Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)
  • Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY)

Committee on Appropriations

Eight new members will join the committee.  The new members include:

  • Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
  • Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)
  • Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)
  • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)
  • Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)
  • Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA)
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

Stakeholders’ Letter to Congressional Leadership On Importance of Water Infrastructure

In a letter sent to congressional leadership this week, 91 stakeholders expressed the importance of the need for funding and financing the nation’s water resources infrastructure.  The letter identifies drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, and stormwater infrastructure as infrastructure that should be included in any infrastructure package that Congress may consider this year.

Bipartisan Lands Package Positioned to Move Quickly in Senate

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act.  S. 47 contains over 100 provisions previously agreed to by the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during the 115th Congress.  According to committee staff, S. 47 will (under Rule 14) bypass the committee action and move directly to the full Senate for a vote, as early as next week.  Key provisions of S. 47 include:

  • Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Facilitates numerous federal lands transfers and conveyances.
  • Expands designations and adjustments of several Wilderness and Natural Heritage Areas.
  • Authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation to convey the title to federal water infrastructure facilities to nonfederal entities if the entity has assumed responsibility from Reclamation for operating the facility before enactment of the bill (S. 2560, Reclamation Title Transfer Act of 2018).

Government Shutdown Stalls WOTUS Process

The government shutdown has caused a delay in the Waters of the U.S. rule process.  This week, the Administration had to postpone a public hearing on its Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposed rule that was scheduled for January 23 in Kansas City.  The postponement is due to the partial government shutdown that is impacting a number of agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that is involved in the WOTUS rewrite.  A new date for the public hearing has yet to be announced.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day public comment period.  To date, the rule has not been published in the Register.  As a result of the shutdown’s funding lapse, Federal Register activities are currently not supported, so it is unclear when the proposed rule will be published.

Legislative Activity This Week

S. 2200, National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018. – Sen. John Thune. — Became law, Public Law No: 115-423.

New Legislation

S. 40, A bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress a report on the efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation to manage its infrastructure assets. – Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

S. 93, A bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to convey certain land and facilities of the Central Valley Project. – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

H.R. XXXX, Reducing Environmental Barriers to Unified Infrastructure and Land Development (REBUILD) Act. – Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)

Reports and Regulation

White House eyeing Rob Bishop, David Bernhardt for Interior Bloomberg.

Congress Next Week

January 16, 2019

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – Hearing on the Nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency