The inclusion of environmental provisions was a focus of Democratic opposition throughout the several days of debate on the bill, H.R. 2838. Specifically, the bill would set one standard for ballast water discharge, a provision aimed at making it easier for commercial vessels to comply with an environmental guideline that can now shift from state to state.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully in early November to moderate this language.

The Obama administration has said it opposes the bill because it would decommission the icebreaker USCGC POLAR STAR, although its statement did not specifically say it would veto the bill.

Before the final vote, the House accepted an amendment from Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), which would ease the Passenger Vessel Services Act so non-U.S. vessels in Puerto Rico can transport passengers for hire.