May’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-08-23T09:52:16+00:00 June 11, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

The House passed (351-66) the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), which would authorize defense spending ($717 billion) for military activities, including a Department of Defense (DOD) study on attracting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-educated individuals from minority serving academic institutions; a joint DOD and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report on wind farm impacts on weather radars and military operations; and research on emerging technologies. Meanwhile, the Senate version ($716 billion) passed out of committee (25-2) and would prioritize science, technology, and research programs in the areas of space, energy, and innovative technology.

Several water infrastructure bills passed out of committee or out of their chamber this month including one that would direct the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to restore aquatic ecosystems and to conduct feasibility studies on flood risk management using green (natural) and grey (traditional) infrastructure (S. 2800); another focused on preventing maintenance backlogs within the ACE and identifying $3 billion in projects that are no longer feasible due to local support or lack of federal dollars (H.R. 8); and two appropriations bills (S. 2975, H.R. 5895) that would fund energy and water research, the Department of Interior, the Department of Energy, and the ACE.

What’s New

Conservation was a common theme for bills introduced last month. Nearly identical legislation in the House and Senate (S. 2773 and H.R. 5638) aims to improve fisheries management and to reduce bycatch in driftnets by requiring changes to net length and mesh size. The Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act of 2018 (H.R. 5697) outlines how money collected from fines (e.g., illegal fishing, shark finning, marine mammal violations) should be spent and would direct the agencies to develop a program rewarding wildlife trafficking whistle blowers and to execute the International Wildlife Conservation Program.

What’s Next

Both chambers made progress on appropriations in May, but with the deadline fast approaching (September 30) the pressure to finish is building — the Senate announced they will only take a week of their usual month-long August recess. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass identical versions of the 12 bills (or an omnibus) that are then signed by the president.

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