Overnight Regulation: Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor | Dems grill Trump bank regulator nominees | Halliburton to pay $29.2M to settle SEC violation

Overnight Regulation: Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor | Dems grill Trump bank regulator nominees | Halliburton to pay $29.2M to settle SEC violation
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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 Thursday night, but the day is really just getting started in the Senate, where a healthcare vote-a-rama could start shortly and could last into the early morning hours. Send caffeine to the Senate press gallery and catch up on our coverage here.

 

THE BIG STORY

The future is here.

A driverless car bill is quickly moving through the House, as Congress races to pass the first federal legislation to address the emerging technology.

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The bill, which comes one week after it was approved by a subcommittee, was the product of bipartisan negotiations, which were reflected in the form of a substitute amendment that dropped late Wednesday night.

The measure now heads to the House floor.

What's in the bill: The House bill would prohibit states from imposing laws related to the design, construction or performance of self-driving cars. But local governments would still maintain traditional auto responsibilities, such as licensing and registration. It would also provide 100,000 exemptions each year to driverless carmakers so they can design and test cars.

The view in the upper chamber? The Senate is also working on similar legislation, which could be released in the coming days.

For context: The scramble to address autonomous vehicle technology comes as traffic deaths have climbed at an alarming rate, while automakers are pledging aggressive timelines to bring driverless cars to the masses. Congress wants to be firmly in the driver's seat when that happens.

There are currently no overarching federal laws specifically governing the operation and deployment of self-driving cars, though there are a number of laws already on the books that developers must obey.

Read more from Melanie Zanona here.

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

Finance: Two of President Trump's financial regulatory nominees faced tough questions from Democrats over their Wall Street work at a hearing Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee.

Joseph Otting, Trump's nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, and Randal Quarles, who has been nominated to serve on the Federal Reserve Board as vice chairman of supervision, would play major roles in fulfilling Trump's promise to "dismantle" Dodd-Frank Act banking regulations.

While they are likely to be approved by the Republican-led committee, Democrats grilled the two.

Sylvan Lane has the story here.

 

Labor: A House Republican has offered a bill to reverse a controversial labor rule.  

The legislation, unveiled Thursday, would protect companies from being held liable for labor law violations committed by their subcontractors.

The Save Local Business Act, introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), would change the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to clarify that two or more employers must have "actual, direct, and immediate" control over employees to be considered joint employers.

The bill aims to kill the new standard created by a 2015 ruling in which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said a company is considered a "joint-employer" with a contractor if it has "indirect" control over the terms and conditions of employment or has the "reserved authority to do so."

More from Lydia Wheeler here.

 

Energy and Environment: Oil services firm Halliburton will pay $29.2 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) dispute over the company's operations in Angola.

The SEC accused Halliburton and Jeannot Lorenz, its former vice president, of improperly partnering with local Angolan-owned businesses as early as 2008.

According to the violation order, Halliburton worked with a local company owned by a former Halliburton employee who was friendly with officials at a state-run oil company in order to win oilfield service contracts.

Devin Henry's piece is here.

 

Technology: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold confirmation votes for three nominees to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) next week.

On Aug. 2, the panel will vote on former Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr, a Republican. And Ajit Pai, the current Republican FCC chairman, will be considered for another five-year term.

At a confirmation hearing for the three nominees earlier this month, Pai was grilled by Democrats on whether the White House had tried to influence his decision making on issues including the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The chairman maintained that he hadn't spoken with the White House about the $85 billion deal.

Carr and Rosenworcel are both veterans of the agency. Rosenworcel served on the commission for five years under the Obama administration, but she stepped down at the beginning of the year after her reconfirmation was held up squabbles in the Senate.

Read more from Harper Neidig.

 

More tech: The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a Russian national was indicted for allegedly using the digital currency exchange he ran to launder billions of dollars for others and facilitate drug trafficking, identity theft and hacking.

According to the DOJ, Alexander Vinnik operated BTC-e, one of the largest digital exchanges where users could trade bitcoins for other cryptocurrencies or legal tender.

The DOJ alleged that Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece on Tuesday, used BTC-e to facilitate crimes by not requiring users to validate their identity, anonymizing transactions and not instituting any processes against money laundering.

The exchange has received $4 billion in deposits since its founding in 2011.

Ali Breland's story is here.

 

Energy: The committee led by Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest Democrats can lose Trump impeachment battle and still win electoral war MORE postponed a vote on six Trump administration nominees on Wednesday, the same day a Cabinet secretary allegedly threatened retribution against the Alaska Republican over her healthcare vote.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee publicized the postponement of the vote, which included three Department of the Interior nominees, shortly after 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) that afternoon, saying that her vote against debate on the ObamaCare repeal might steer the administration away from policies that benefit her state, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

There's more: In addition to leading the committee that oversees nearly all of Interior and confirms its nominees, Murkowski is chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee subpanel that oversees its funding.

Timothy Cama's got you covered here.

 

More environment: Here's a tactic --

States are threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try to force the Trump administration into writing new environmental policies.

The potential lawsuits from states like Maryland and Connecticut could put the Trump administration and EPA head Scott Pruitt in a tough spot, where they may have to take new enforcement actions or take new actions that could have a negative impact on fossil fuel plants.

Both of those states have filed formal notices with the EPA that they intend to sue the agency for not responding to petitions they filed asking the EPA to force power plants in upwind states to curb their air pollution.

And more from Tim again.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

Trump administration, intervening in major LGBT case, says job bias law does not cover sexual orientation (The Washington Post)

Court rules against politician who banned access to her Facebook page (The Wall Street Journal)

Digital coin companies shrug off SEC scrutiny (The Wall Street Journal)

 

Send story ideas, tips and fuel to stay up all night for vote-a-rama to rroubein@thehill.com.