Overnight Regulation: Senate panel advances Sessions | House votes to undo two Obama-era rules

Overnight Regulation: Senate panel advances Sessions | House votes to undo two Obama-era rules
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday evening here in Washington where we have a new Supreme Court nominee and a fight brewing over his confirmation.

Here's the latest. 

 

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THE BIG STORIES 

A Senate committee voted to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general on Wednesday, two days after the growing controversy surrounding President Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim nations led to the firing of an acting attorney general for insubordination. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sessions 11-9 along party lines. His nomination now goes to the floor, where he is widely expected to be confirmed given the GOP's 52-seat majority.

The committee vote comes as Senate Democrats have sought to slow progress on other Trump nominees, including Steve Mnuchin, the pick for the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump's pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department. 

The Alabama senator's already difficult path to confirmation was made more contentious by Trump's firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who deemed the president's order illegal and said she would not have Justice attorneys defend it. 

Democrats on Tuesday praised Yates for her actions and accused Sessions of helping Trump draft the order, a claim Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Iowa) denied.

"I'm not sure if it would be a problem even if he was involved," he said during his opening marks. "The fact of the matter is he was not involved."

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Democrats have fiercely criticized Trump's order and Yates's firing, and said that any vote for Sessions is a vote to let Trump stifle dissent in his Justice Department. They used a procedural move to stall a planned vote on Sessions on Tuesday.

Trump quickly replaced Yates with Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He rescinded the Yates order and said Justice will defend the executive order. 

Reports have linked Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller -- a former Sessions staffer -- to the order, and Democrats pointed to a Washington Post report detailing Sessions's influence in the Trump administration. 

Read the full story here

 

Also on Wednesday, the House voted to strike down two Obama-era regulations. The Hill's Devin Henry has the story:

Lawmakers took the first step Wednesday toward repealing environmental regulations issued late in the Obama administration.

The House passed two Congressional Review Act challenges against former President Obama-era rules that Republicans have called a burden for fossil fuel companies.

One of the regulations -- the Stream Protection Rule that was finalized by the Interior Department in December -- has been a longtime target of Republicans. The party tried multiple times to block the Office of Surface Mining from issuing the rule under Obama but never succeeded; with majorities in the House and Senate and President Trump in the White House, they're now likely to strip the rule from the books.

"This is poor procedure that has produced a poor rule, which will result in poor policy," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopWalden retirement adds to GOP election woes Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection MORE (R-Utah) said during floor debate on Wednesday.

"At best, this rule is redundant. It is clearly unnecessary, and it does have the potential of hurting people nefariously, which it does not need to do."

Regulators reviewed the Stream Protection Rule for nearly the entire Obama presidency before finalizing it in December. Regulators and environmentalists said it would help protect waterways from the effects of mountaintop mining pollution and prevent negative health impacts for people living in those areas.

"Communities in the Appalachian Mountains, vital salmon streams in Alaska and much-needed water supplies across this country will be left dealing with the aftermath, while our Republican colleagues boast about providing so-called regulatory relief," Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) charged.

"For all the talk about coal jobs from Republicans and our new president, you would think they care a little about protecting the health of these coal miners and their families and these communities."

But the coal industry -- already suffering due to market conditions in the energy sector -- says the rule will hurt companies and their employees, with one industry-funded analysis saying the measure would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The measure passed the House 228-194 Wednesday. Two senators introduced a version of the Stream Protection resolution earlier this week and could move quickly on the House-passed bill.

Republicans say President Trump supports the legislation.

The House also approved a CRA resolution undoing a Securities and Exchange Commission rule issued under the Dodd-Frank Act that requires oil, natural gas and mineral developers to file more detailed financial information. Fossil fuel companies have said the rule would put them at disadvantage against foreign competitors that don't have to make such filings.

That bill passed 235-187.

The resolutions are the first of several the House will consider under the Congressional Review Act this week.

Read the full story here.

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ON TAP FOR THURSDAY

The Senate Budget Committee will meet to vote on the confirmation of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. 

The House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing to discuss the future of the Transportation Security Administration.

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register includes new safety rules for toys and fireworks. 

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--The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will issue new safety standards for toys.

President Trump's regulatory moratorium blocks federal agencies from issuing new rules, except those that affect public safety and health.

The CPSC will issue a direct final rule to revise the mandatory toy safety standards. The safety standards go into effect on April 30.

--The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will propose new rules for fireworks.

The fireworks regulations are exempted from Trump's moratorium, because they address safety concerns and "would reduce the risk of injury to consumers," the agency says.

The public has 75 days to comment.

--The Department of Energy (DOE) will delay Obama-era efficiency standards to comply with Trump's regulatory moratorium. 

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy last month finalized new test procedures for compressors, central air conditioners and heat pumps.

The test procedures will now go into effect on March 21.

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

House votes to strike down two Obama-era rules

Health chair: Congress may have to aid insurers during ObamaCare transition

NY attorney general sues Time Warner Cable over internet speed fraud

Sessions approved by Senate committee

Dems boycott committee vote on Trump's EPA pick

GOP changes rules to push through nominees after Dem boycott

Former Obama EPA chief: Trump approach is 'extremely disappointing'

Army Corps told to clear way for Dakota Access construction

Watchdog: IRS should improve handling of ID-theft cases

Western Republicans seek new federal appeals court

Consumer agency fines Mastercard, UniRush $13M over prepaid cards

Manchin to meet with Trump's Supreme Court pick

Trump taps Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

Trump's team has detected the 'dark matter' of government regulation (Washington Post)

Trump's regulation order: What it means for small businesses (Forbes)

Cutting regulations is not so easy (CNN)

 

BY THE NUMBERS

8: Final rules

3: Proposed rules

(Source: Federal Register)

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.