Overnight Regulation

OVERNIGHT REGULATION: GOP balks, but likely can’t stop Block at NLRB

Welcome back to OVERNIGHT REGULATION, The Hill’s daily run down of regulatory news from around Washington. Lawmakers are back after a five-week summer hiatus, and we’re here to bring you all today’s biggest new and a first look at tomorrow’s emerging storylines.

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It’s déjà vu all over again for Senate Republicans who are less than thrilled about the prospect that nominee Sharon Block will be confirmed to the National Labor Relations Board.

{mosads}A confirmation hearing set for Tuesday morning before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee comes two years after President Obama sought to install Block and two other nominees on the labor board – sans congressional approval.

Fast-forward to this summer, when Republicans cheered a Supreme Court finding that the president violated the Constitution by using his recess appointment power when the Senate said it was in session (albeit on a pro-forma basis), invalidating the appointments.

Obama promptly re-nominated Block, and HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is moving ahead with tomorrow’s hearing.  

Republicans, so far quietly, oppose the Block nomination for three reasons key reasons:

1. The practical impact: Block, meant to replace outgoing member Nancy Schiffer would give Democrats a 3-2 advantage on the NLRB, as the board grapples with a host of cases holding major implications for labor and workforce issues over the next two years.

2. The grudge: A senior GOP aide tells The Hill that Republicans on the panel remain miffed that Block didn’t immediately step down from the position after a preliminary federal court ruling found her appointment invalid.

3. The optics: Republicans and business groups who criticized Block’s appointment two years ago say her re-nomination is tantamount to the president thumbing his nose at them – not to mention the high court.

“Sharon Block’s appointment appears to be a direct repudiation of the Supreme Court’s decision…” International Franchise Association president Steve Caldeira wrote Monday in a letter to the committee. “Her second appointment seems to be an attempt to legitimize her unconstitutional tenure.”

Still, the committee can approve Block’s nomination via a party-line vote, and her road to confirmation by the full Senate has been made far easier by rule changes allowing most presidential nominations to advance with a simple majority.

But some observers expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to hold off on a final vote until after the midterm elections.  


The House Education and Workforce Committee will tackle the National Labor Relations Board’s recent “joint employer” decision with a hearing looking at how it will impact franchisors and their employees. http://1.usa.gov/1vXLBWC

This summer, the NLRB decided that McDonald’s can be held responsible for labor violations made by independent franchisees, a move that could turn the restaurant industry upside down. 

House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing looking at how the EPA’s climate rule will affect different states. http://1.usa.gov/1lFyS7s

The Natural Resources Committee will consider a bill that proposes to overturn federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken by removing its status as a threatened species, as well as a handful of other bills relating to the Endangered Species Act. http://1.usa.gov/1rHM1NK



The Obama administration will publish 186 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Register.

Here’s what to watch: 

-The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is busy issuing a variety of exemptions for truck drivers who would otherwise be prohibited from operating commercial motor vehicles.

The FMCSA will allow 52 truck drivers who have a vision impairment to operate these big rigs. This is the second time in as many weeks the agency is relaxing the rules for drivers who are either blind or have poor vision in one eye. http://j.mp/1pIsQ0P

The agency will also consider new exemptions for a dozen truck drivers who suffer from epilepsy and other conditions that cause seizures, as long as they are taking anti-seizure medication. http://j.mp/1rvR7J4

Meanwhile, the FMCSA may ease regulations for moving truck companies, whose drivers could be allowed to operate commercial motor vehicles for more than 14 consecutive hours in certain circumstances. http://j.mp/1ut1m52

The American Moving & Storage Association is requesting exemptions for drivers at 3,700 moving truck companies with the sole purpose of allowing them to find a safe spot to park away from the neighborhood where they deliver.

-The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will look at new safety standards for freight trains that are shipping hazardous materials such as oil and ethanol.

The new rules would require train operators to make sure hazardous materials are safely secured when they are being transported by rail. http://j.mp/1BnDEu7

-The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will bolster a prescription drug take-back program that encourages people to properly dispose of their expired painkillers they are no longer using. 

People will be able to voluntarily turn these expired prescription drugs into police stations and hospitals to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands. http://j.mp/1tnhbZ6

-The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may loosen the restrictions on fruit and vegetable imports, which were put in place to prevent harmful pests from entering the U.S. and destroying farm fields here. 

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it is considering “more flexible” regulations. http://j.mp/1CKhHqA



DR. OZ: The company behind a weight loss scheme backed by Dr. Mehmet Oz will pay $3.5 million in fines, after settling with the Federal Trade Commission over false weight loss claims that were not supported by scientific evidence, The Hill’s Elise Viebeck reports. http://j.mp/1lRtcre

SURVEY SAYS: A new poll finds that a majority of parents – including most identifying as Republicans – support national school nutrition standards at the center of a congressional spat. http://j.mp/1CKJfw6

WATERS: The Environmental Protection Agency is releasing a series of questions and answers as the agency tries to better explain its controversial Waters of the U.S. Rule, which has stoked much Republican criticism, The Hill’s Tim Cama reports. http://j.mp/1xzAhBM

FLYING: The Obama administration is looking at new emissions standards for airlines, after having already required reductions for vehicles, power plants, and major buildings. http://j.mp/1s4QZUT

HE’LL BE BACK: Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is returning to the state’s capital armed with a new plan to fight climate change and reduce emissions, The Hill’s Laura Barron-Lopez reports. http://j.mp/1qxVkjr

UN: A top official at the United Nations says the climate summit in New York City later this month will be a “major turning point” in the international fight to prevent climate change. http://j.mp/1s50QdA

PATENT TROLLS: A Senate Democrat expressed his support Monday for an old House Republican bill that would have fought back against so-called “patent trolls,” months after the legislation was killed. http://j.mp/1nGEKZJ

CLIMATE: An environmental group says it has raised $4 million to fight climate change this fall during the run up to the midterm elections. http://j.mp/1nGE46G

RED CROSS: Senate Democrats are demanding the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) reverse a decades-old policy that prevents gay men from donating blood, because they say it is discriminatory, The Hill’s Ramsey Cox reports. http://j.mp/1wek9RF

GROUNDED: The Federal Aviation Administration is cracking down on the owners of a drone that flew over Las Vegas casinos in July, in violation of the agency’s rules, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. http://j.mp/1tnz5ed

TAX SHELTER: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is calling on lawmakers to close a tax loophole that helps companies avoid paying corporate taxes, Reuters reports. http://j.mp/1rwfx5e



$3.5M: The amount of money federal regulators are fining the company behind a weight loss scheme backed by Dr. Mehmet Oz that featured false advertising claims.

1977: The year the Food and Drug Administration began banning gay men from donating blood, because of government concerns that they have a greater risk of contracting HIV.

72: The percentage of parents who back strong federal nutrition standards, according to Pew.

56: Percentage of parents identifying themselves as Republicans who back the standards.

3 million: Number of signatures on a petition delivered to Congress Monday by financial reform advocates supporting a constitutional amendment giving power to regulate campaign spending in federal races.



“This is the most important issue we have discussed in a matter of years.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) on the Senate’s consideration of the proposed constitutional amendment on campaign finance.  

We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.


Industry thought leaders and federal policy makers will gather at The Hill’s Sept. 16 Aviation Policy Summit, sponsored by Airlines for America, to debate the policies and regulations shaping the future of flight. Featured keynotes: Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. Register here.


Tags Bernie Sanders Harry Reid Jack Lew National Labor Relations Board Recess appointment Tom Harkin

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