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: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog
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Welcome to Overnight Regulations, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill and the courts. It's Thursday evening here in Washington where House Republicans just passed a sweeping tax bill.

Read about that here

 

THE BIG STORY 

In the wake of a deadly mass shooting in Texas last month, a bipartisan group of Senators have unveiled a plan to strengthen the background check system by incentivizing states to send records to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), which records if a person is prohibited from buying a gun. 

As Jordain Carney reports, the bill offered by Sens. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (R-Texas), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator ties Kavanaugh confirmation vote to Trump-Putin controversy Full interview: Chris Murphy speaks out on the Trump-Putin meeting and what it means Dem senator: NATO has become 'functionally obsolete' under Trump MORE (D-Conn.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) would block bonus pay for political appointees in agencies that fail to upload records to the background check system and would reward states that follow through on implementation plans.

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"For years agencies and states haven't complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence. ... This bill aims to help fix what's become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms," Cornyn said in a statement.

Murphy added that "this deal will strengthen the background check system and save lives. Our bill marks an important milestone that shows real compromise can be made on the issue of guns."

Read the full story here

 

REG ROUNDUP 

Technology: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to roll back restrictions on media ownership, a proposal that critics say is helping to pave the way for a controversial merger and further consolidation in the industry.

The commission's party-line vote clears the way for the common ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market. The proposal also eliminates a rule that prohibited television stations in the same market from merging if such a deal would leave less than eight different stations in that market.

The move has incensed critics, who see it as part of Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's efforts to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is awaiting approval from the agency for its purchase of Tribune Media. The $3.9 billion deal that would let the combined company access 72 percent of the country's television audience.

Harper Neidig has the story here

 

Environment: Two Republican senators said Wednesday that they won't support President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) chemical safety office.

The opposition from North Carolina Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisKey GOP senator says ‘no question’ Russia is meddling in U.S. affairs GOP Senator: 'Very inappropriate' for Trump to discuss allowing Russia to question US citizens Anti-Trump protesters hold candlelight vigil by White House MORE and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCongress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools Christine Todd Whitman: Trump should step down over Putin press conference GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE puts Michael Dourson's nomination in danger. If one more Republican votes against him, he likely wouldn't be confirmed to the post.

Even before Tillis's and Burr's opposition, Dourson was one of Trump's most polarizing nominees. Democrats and environmentalists saw him as a lackey for the chemical industry who, for years, was paid to underplay the harms of various chemicals. 

The opposition from the North Carolina senators, first reported by the Wilmington, N.C., Star News, stems from a pair of major health controversies in the state surrounding water contamination at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the recent discovery of the as-yet-unregulated chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River. The senators do not believe Dourson would be an effective force to protect the victims of those incidents.

Timothy Cama has the story here

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) also said she is "leaning against" voting for Trump's nominee. More on that from Timothy Cama here.

 

Business: Republicans have added a tax credit to a modified version of the Senate tax bill, which aims to incentivize businesses to offer paid family and medical leave. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLighthizer to testify before Senate next week as trade war ramps up Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve IRS Senate panel advances Trump IRS nominee MORE (R-Utah) included in his "modified mark" a proposal from Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post MORE (R-Neb.) to give businesses offering full-time employees at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave each year a general business credit equal to 12.5 percent of the amount of wages they pay an employee if the employee is getting at least 50 percent of their normal wages.

The tax credit increases by 0.25 percent for every percentage point the employer pays beyond the 50 percent wage replacement. The tax credit, however, maxes out at 25 percent.

Find that story here

 

Environment: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Court rejects new effort to stop kids' climate lawsuit | Baltimore is latest city to sue over climate change | EPA staffers worried about toxic chemical in Pruitt's desk Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE will head to Capitol Hill next month to testify at a hearing on the agency's agenda.

The hearing announced Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment sub-panel is Pruitt's first congressional oversight hearing since he took the helm at the agency in February, though he has testified at appropriations hearings.

The announcement comes amid bipartisan pressure for Pruitt to come to Capitol Hill, nine months into his tenure.

Timothy Cama again with the story here

 

Finance: Democrats in both chambers unveiled legislation on Thursday designed to protect workers whose retirement pensions are threatened with deep cuts in the coming years.

Sponsored by Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy MORE (D-Ohio) and Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse votes to disavow carbon tax Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production MORE (D-Mass.), the proposal aims to prop up struggling multi-employer pension plans they say could sink the retirement security of more than 1 million workers across the country, largely within the next decade.

Cuts to those pensions, the Democrats argue, would break the contractual promises made to workers that their pension payments would provide retirement security -- and be untouchable.

Mike Lillis has the story here

 

Health care: The Senate on Thursday passed by unanimous consent a bill to speed up Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of medical devices and drugs to be used on the battlefield.

The bill is meant to address a controversial provision of the annual defense policy bill passed by the House on Tuesday that would allow the Pentagon to sign off on unapproved devices and drugs. The Senate passing the bill on medical approvals means it will soon be able to take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Despite passing that measure on Tuesday, the House wouldn't officially send over the defense bill until the Senate approves the separate medical bill.

The Pentagon and its advocates in Congress have been frustrated by the FDA's slow approval of certain treatments they say could save lives on the battlefield.

Rebecca Kheel has more here.

 

Tech: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to let phone service providers proactively block robocalls from fraudulent numbers.

The proposal was approved unanimously, with commissioners of both parties hailing it as a necessary step to protect consumers.

"These calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent; there's no legitimate reason for anyone to spoof caller ID to make it seem as if he or she is calling from an unassigned or invalid phone number," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Service providers will now be able to block calls from numbers with certain signs that indicate that they're fraudulent. For example, companies will be able to proactively block calls from numbers with area codes that don't exist or that can't make outgoing calls.

Harper Neidig has more here.

 

Finance: The Senate on Thursday confirmed former bank executive Joseph Otting to be comptroller of the currency, the top federal banking watchdog.

Otting was confirmed by a 54-to-43 vote largely along party lines. Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPolling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (N.D.) were the only Democrats to support him. Otting will replace acting Comptroller Keith Noreika, who has filled the role since May.

Otting was the president and CEO of OneWest Bank, where he worked with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP tax writer introduces bill to reduce capital gains taxes Dem lawmaker calls for cryptocurrency probe after Mueller indictments Meet the woman who is Trump's new emissary to Capitol Hill MORE, and a vice chairman at U.S. Bancorp before that. He presided over hundreds of thousands of foreclosures at OneWest Bank, which has been investigated for multiple federal and state housing violations.

Otting will help implement the Trump administration's plans to tailor aspects of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law long protested by banks. Noreika started the process of reviewing the "Volcker rule" on proprietary trading for changes, which Otting will likely continue.

Sylvan Lane has more here.

 

Tech: AT&T is hiring media lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to serve as its lead trial counsel in case the Justice Department files a lawsuit to block a potential merger with Time Warner.

Petrocelli, a partner at the firm O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, has previously worked for clients including Disney and President Trump, whom he defended in fraud lawsuits over the Trump University real estate training program.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed the hiring to The Hill.

The DOJ is reportedly considering a lawsuit to stop the $85 billion deal between AT&T and Time Warner.

Read more from Ali Breland here.

 

Hunting: The Trump administration is reversing an Obama administration ban on bringing to the United States the heads of elephants killed in two African countries.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it has determined that hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” which is the standard by which officials judge whether to allow imports of parts — known as trophies — of the animals.

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” an FWS spokesman said in a statement late Wednesday after hunting group Safari Club International announced the policy.

Imports will be allowed for elephants killed between Jan. 21 and the end of 2018.

Read more from Timothy Cama here.

 

IN OTHER NEWS 

Meet the powerful group behind Trump's judicial nominations - The Hill

Interior watchdog says Zinke did not properly document his travel - The Hill

We have an opioid overdose crisis, but cigarettes still kill 15 times more people - Vox 

HHS pick at odds with Trump's rhetoric on drug prices - Roll Call 

Feds arrest more than 200 MS 13 gang members - The Washington Examiner 

Grassley rips up 'blue slip' for a pair of Trump court picks - Politico