Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog
Overnight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill
Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Thursday night, and HHS Secretary Tom Price announced he'll reimburse taxpayers for his use of private jets. The cost: $51,887.31. Critics were quick to point out that the total cost is estimated at to be more than $400,000.
THE BIG STORY:
The Jones Act is waived -- for now.
The White House announced early Thursday that President Trump has agreed to temporarily lift shipping restrictions on Puerto Rico and enable the hurricane-ravaged island to receive necessary aid.
The waiver from the shipping law, which requires American-made and -operated vessels to transport cargo between U.S. ports, will only last for 10 days and goes into effect immediately.
But lawmakers were pushing for a longer waiver.
Since Monday, members had been urging a one-year waiver from the rules in order to help speed up deliveries of food, fuel and other critical supplies to Puerto Rico, which has been battered by two hurricanes in the last month. Officials estimate that the island could be without power for six months.
Yet, there's also a push to permanently exempt Puerto Rico.
Trump suggested on Wednesday that he was hesitant to waive the restriction, because of opposition from the U.S. shipping industry.
"We're thinking about that," he told reporters. "But we have a lot of shippers and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now."
Some lawmakers called Trump out for the 10-day waiver, saying it doesn't go far enough to address the growing crisis on the island.
"10 days is nothing," Rep. Luis Guti rrez (D-Ill.) told reporters Thursday. "The ships have to get in there from the closest port, in the least expensive [way.]"
Technology: Get ready for the future.
The Senate released bipartisan legislation on Thursday that would provide the first overarching federal laws governing the driverless car industry.
The bill, authored by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), would seek to help the car industry speed up deployment of autonomous technology by waiving traditional safety standards for as many as 100,000 vehicles per manufacturer.
"This legislation proposes common sense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology," Thune, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement.
The legislation is titled The American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act.
Context: The House passed similar legislation easing restrictions on self-driving cars earlier in September.
Transportation: The House passed legislation on Thursday to extend federal aviation programs before a Saturday deadline and provide tax relief for people affected by recent hurricanes.
Lawmakers sent the measure to the Senate on a 264-155 vote, three days after it failed on the House floor due to widespread opposition from Democrats.
Democrats blocked the legislation from moving through a fast-track process that required a two-thirds majority for passage, limited debate time and prohibited amendments. House GOP leaders returned the bill to the floor under a rule needing only a simple majority.
The package reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for six months, just days before it expired at the end of September. Airport construction project delays and FAA employee furloughs could commence if Congress doesn't act to renew agency programs in time.
But the Senate then cleared a six-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday that removed the flood insurance provision, meaning the bill needed to return to the House.
Then the House passed the new version without objection later Thursday afternoon.
Finance: Two senators introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday that would let the Federal Reserve exempt some banks from stricter federal oversight.
Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) released a bill meant to reduce regulations on banks that have more than $50 billion in assets but are focused on regional business and don't pose a global financial risk in the event of their collapse.
The bill is intended reduce the regulatory burden of the Dodd-Frank Act on regional and community banks that are grouped in the same tier as major, well-known financial institutions.
Regional and community banks have long complained that complying with Dodd-Frank stifles their ability to loan and boost local economies. They argue that despite their large regional footprints, their relatively safe lending and investment practices don't warrant the same rules as investment banks.
More technology: Senate Democrats on Thursday rallied against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai ahead of his pending reconfirmation vote.
The Democrats urged their colleagues to vote against the Republican agency head, slamming his opposition to the Obama-era net neutrality rules and his deregulatory record.
"In my opinion, the vast majority of the actions of Chairman Pai have served to eliminate competitive protections, threaten dangerous industry consolidation, make the internet less free and less open, and weaken critical consumer protections for those most vulnerable," Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said on the floor Thursday.
Environment: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) on Thursday declared victory in a fight with the Trump administration over a greenhouse gas emission regulation.
Becerra in a statement said that he and seven other attorneys general sued the Trump administration last week for delaying an Obama-era regulation that mandated local and state officials measure emissions for specific federally funded highways.
"Today, the Trump Administration backed down and will now implement the Measure as is legally required. This is a victory for the American people and will help us tackle climate change, the most important global environmental issue of our time," Becerra said.
More environment: The Trump administration plans to formally reconsider a landmark set of Obama administration policies meant to protect the greater sage grouse in the West, The New York Times reported.
Sometime this week, the Interior Department plans to publish a formal notice of its intent to reconsider 98 sage grouse management plans across the chicken-sized bird's 10-state habitat, the Times said, citing agency and state officials familiar with the notice.
Reopening the consideration process could lead to a relaxation of restrictions on grazing, oil and gas drilling, mining or other development within the sage grouse's habitat.
Background: The bird, which has a unique mating dance, became a lightning rod in the debate over endangered species. Conservationists argued that protecting it would conserve important ecosystems and landscapes in the West, while businesses that use a lot of land, like energy and developers, argued that protections could be detrimental to the economy.
More technology: Years before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's promise last week that his company would soon require political ads to come with a note explaining who paid for them, the social media giant lobbied the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for a waiver from such a requirement.
Facebook asked the FEC in 2011 for a waiver to the law requiring all political ads to include a note about who paid for them, CNN reported Wednesday.
And as Splinter News reported earlier this month, Facebook was represented in the effort by Marc Elias, a lawyer who has been a longtime Democratic operative and the general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
Supreme Court: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch gave the keynote address at an event held at the Trump International Hotel Thursday despite blowback from outside groups concerned about the potential ethical conflicts created by appearing at a business owned by the president.
Gorsuch addressed a crowd of about 200 people gathered under crystal chandeliers in a gold-plated ballroom of the Washington, D.C., hotel for a luncheon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) -- a conservative group which claims on its website to teach students and young professionals about "limited government, free-market economics and honorable leadership."
TFAS said the justice was not paid and received "absolutely no monetary benefit for speaking at the event."
What Gorsuch discussed: Trump's first nominee to be appointed to the Supreme Court shared with the guests of the invite-only event some anecdotes about his first days in his new role on the court and how important it is for each generation to understand how the government works.
More environment: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken an industry-friendly turn under the Trump administration.
Administrator Scott Pruitt is moving to address several top priorities of the energy, agriculture and automotive sectors and has been meeting frequently with industry representatives, according to his schedules. He has also chosen people with close industry ties for important positions.
It's a major shift from the Obama administration, when business groups felt that they were shut out of the process.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS
SEC probes departure of PepsiCo's former top lawyer (The Wall Street Journal)
Abbott wins US antitrust approval to buy Alere with conditions (Reuters)
Eli Lilly wins FDA approval for breast cancer drug (Reuters)
Uber ruling puts jobs at risk, says Theresa May (BBC News)
Former SEC chief says regulator not equipped to take on bitcoin (Reuters)
CFTC names SEC official to top clearing post (The Wall Street Journal)
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