OVERNIGHT REGULATION: FEC breaks its partisan logjam

It’s Thursday night in Washington, which means lawmakers are rushing to the airport and just about everyone else is heading to happy hour. Before calling it a day, catch up on today’s biggest regulatory news — and tomorrow’s emerging storylines — here at OVERNIGHT REGULATION.

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THE BIG STORY

Four years later, the Federal Election Commission is responding to the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling.

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Under an agreement first reported by The Hill, the commission will vote Oct. 9 to approve a slate of rules loosening the agency’s campaign finance regulations. The action comes in response to the high court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, as well as this spring’s ruling in FEC v. McCutcheon.

Many in Washington view the FEC — made up of three Republican commissioners and three Democrats — as a dysfunctional agency, prone by its very nature to partisan gridlock. The commission’s inaction following the two blockbuster Supreme Court rulings did little to dispel that perception.

But the commissioners say their compromise on the campaign finance regulations marks a new day for the FEC.

“We’ve crafted an agreement that will allow the commission and the public to finally move forward four years after Citizens United,” FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann Ravel said Thursday during remarks at a conference of the Practicing Law Institute. http://j.mp/X2tShC

--Here are the details of the three-part deal:

1. Citizens United – The commission plans to issue a final rule reconciling its policy with the court’s decision. The high court ruling struck down restrictions that had barred corporations and unions from spending money from their general treasury funds on federal races. Of course, such expenditures have exploded in recent election cycles, regardless of the FEC’s inaction. But the commission says its rules will better define the parameters of what’s allowed – not to mention the FEC’s obligation to comply with the law.

2. McCutcheon A: The FEC will issue an interim final rule formally lifting the aggregate spending limit for individual donors in accordance with the court’s April ruling, dubbed “Citizens United II” by campaign finance reform advocates.

3. McCutcheon B: As a concession to Democrats wary of formally relaxing the campaign spending rules, the FEC will also issue an advance notice of public rulemaking to solicit comments on the implications of the interim final rule. In essence, they are allowing interested parties to make their arguments for additional language to protect against unintended consequences from the McCutcheon ruling. Ravel told The Hill that her support for the package was dependent on the measure.

 

ON TAP FOR FRIDAY:

Capitol Hill is dark, following a legislative week that saw Senate Republicans block a constitutional amendment giving Congress power to regulate campaign spending, and House Republicans pass a symbolic bill that would halt the Environmental Protection Agencies “Waters of the United States” rule.

President Obama will give a speech in the afternoon to commemorate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, before heading to an evening fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions wraps up its three-day Congressional Caucus. Highlights from Friday’s speaker lineup include: Acting Assistant Treasury Secretary Amias Gerety, Ginnie Mae President Ted TozerRep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).  

And, of course, agencies across the federal apparatus will be busy churning out new rules.

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 194 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

Here's what to watch:

--The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will bolster a program that provides financial aid to members of the military and veterans who are blind.

These special home adaption grants help veterans with service-connected disabilities, such as blindness, purchase new homes or renovate their existing homes to accommodate their disabilities. 

The VA will expand eligibility so more soldiers qualify for the grants. Those who are completely blind or have vision that is 20/200 or worse while using a corrective lens would qualify.

Previously, a soldier didn't qualify unless their vision was 5/200 or worse. http://j.mp/1nOATty

Meanwhile, the VA will also make small changes to its medical regulations, which go into effect immediately. http://j.mp/X269yk

--The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) may issue new rules for government-sponsored banks.

Financial institutions that are part of the Federal Home Loan Bank system would be required to offer more home mortgage loans and residential mortgage loans under the proposed rules. http://j.mp/1wjHvbo

--The Department of Transportation (DOT) will issue new transportation acquisition regulations. The changes go into effect immediately. http://j.mp/1sud8wc

--The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will correct mistakes made in a proposal for new hazardous materials regulations. The public has until Oct. 14 to comment. http://j.mp/1suefMo

--The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will issue new rules for people who want to submit information requests to the agency under the Freedom of Information Act. The rule goes into effect on Sept. 15. http://j.mp/X297mt

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

DRONE ON: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow nonprofit company Texas EquuSearch to use a drone to find a missing woman from the Dallas area. This comes despite the agency's recent crack down on the use of drones, The Hill's Keith Laing reports. http://j.mp/1upgrpa

PRESSURE IS MOUNTING for the EPA to extend the public comment period for its proposal to impose new limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants. More than half of the Senate now wants an additional 60 days. http://j.mp/1BvFOYv

FINED: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is fining M&T Bank Corp., more than $18 million for underreporting major losses from construction loans it held, Reuters reports. http://j.mp/1rYoE4L

WATCHING THE WATCHDOG: House Republicans say the Interior Department's inspector general is withholding information from them about a rule the agency is working on to protect fish and wildlife from mountaintop removal mining, The Hill's Tim Cama reports. http://j.mp/1CX28fm

STYROFOAM BAN: Democrats are pushing for a complete ban of Styrofoam on Capitol Hill, which critics say is bad for the environment and can cause health issues. The Senate already bans polystyrene foam food containers, better known as Styrofoam. But the House, controlled by Republicans, has yet to do so, The Hill's Tim Cama reports. http://j.mp/1uKnKGc

E-LABEL: House Republicans are pushing for electronic labeling of radiofrequency devices, rather than physical labels, The Hill's Cristina Marcos reports. http://j.mp/1xPyTv5

NFL TROUBLES: Washington is turning up the pressure on the National Football League over the league's handling of the Ray Rice issue, The Hill's Megan Wilson reports. http://j.mp/1pTU2tN

HAVE IT THEIR WAY? Senate Democrats are urging Burger King to reconsider its plan to move to Canada to avoid paying corporate taxes in the U.S., The Hill's Bernie Becker reports. http://j.mp/1pce4iY

 

BY THE NUMBERS

53: The number of United States Senators now pressing for an extension of the public comment period for the EPA’s rule for existing power plants.

10: Number of Democrats backing the push.

60:  The number of extra days the lawmakers say should be tacked onto the current comment period.

120: The total number of comment days under the proposal, making it equal to the time the public was given to respond to EPA’s related rule for new power plants. 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The news of our dysfunction as an agency is greatly exaggerated” – FEC Chairman Lee Goodman on the commission’s accord on campaign finance regulations.

 

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.