July’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-08-12T14:46:41+00:00 August 12, 2019|
U.S. Capitol Building. (Credit: (Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: (Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

The House and Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R. 3877; P.L. 116-37), a two-year budget deal that raises budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) until the end of fiscal year (FY) 2021, which was then signed into law by the president. The Act will avoid a $125 billion decrease in discretionary funding available for FY 2020 appropriations compared to FY 2019. Nondefense spending, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and several other science agencies, will receive a $27 billion increase in FY 2020 compared to FY 2019 current levels.

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36) passed the House floor by voice vote. This bill would establish a research program to better understand the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in scientific fields, examine policies to reduce harassment, and create an interagency working group to improve communication and coordination among federal agencies in addressing sexual harassment. The legislation has been introduced in the Senate and awaits further action.

Legislation addressing harmful algal blooms (HABs) passed out of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act of 2019 (H.R. 335) would amend existing federal law aimed at combating HABs and develop a plan to reduce the frequency of these events in South Florida.

What’s New

Two new bills would address the issue of marine debris. In the Senate, the Save Our Seas 2.0: Improving Domestic Infrastructure to Prevent Marine Debris Act (S. 2260) would call for the development of a strategy to improve domestic infrastructure preventing marine debris. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (H.R. 3969), a companion to the Senate version (S. 1982), was introduced in the House. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act would build on the successes of the Save Our Seas (SOS) Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-265) by reducing marine debris through increasing investments in domestic waste infrastructure, providing additional support for domestic debris response programs, and enhancing international collaboration to address the issue at a global level.

Legislation to create a disaster assistance program for commercial fishing and aquaculture operations was introduced in the Senate following a disastrous shrimp and oyster season in the Gulf of Mexico. The Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture Protection Act of 2019 (S. 2209) would establish a permanent revenue-based disaster program to help commercial fisheries, aquaculture operations, and other U.S. seafood producers mitigate losses following severe ecosystem disruption, adverse weather, and other natural disaster conditions.

What’s Next

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (H.R. 2500) passed the House floor by a recorded vote of 220-197. Passed each fiscal year, the measure authorizes activities of the Department of Defense and the national security activities of the Department of Energy. The Senate passed their version of the bill in June, so both chambers must now meet in conference to resolve any differences before sending the final bill to the president.

The Senate has not yet released any funding bills nor held markups and will begin the process of marking up FY 2020 appropriations bills when they return from recess. The House has passed nine of their 12 spending bills, including a “minibus” (H.R. 3055) that contains Commerce-Justice-Science and Interior-Environment FY 2020 appropriations bills.

Both chambers have departed for their annual August recess, leaving only 13 joint working days to meet the September 30 deadline on FY 2020 appropriations. Congress must pass identical versions of 12 appropriations bills that are then signed by the president or pass a continuing resolution maintaining FY 2019 funding levels into FY 2020 to avoid a government shutdown.

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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