Overnight Regulation: Trump to sign repeal of consumer arbitration rule | EPA blocks scientists with grants from advisory boards | Exxon settles air pollution case | Trade panel recommends tariffs on solar tech
Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It’s Tuesday evening, and we’re following the suspected terrorist incident in New York City that occurred earlier this afternoon.
THE BIG STORY: President Trump will sign a resolution Wednesday repealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule on forced arbitration, a White House aide told The Hill on Tuesday.
Trump has been widely expected to sign the resolution repealing the rule, which bans banks and credit card companies from blocking customers from suing them in class-action cases. The House passed a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal the rule in July, which the Senate approved two weeks ago.
Trump will sign the resolution joined by the heads of banking and financial services trade groups that opposed the arbitration rules, according to three lobbyists familiar with the plans.
Republicans and business groups promised to kill the arbitration rule within hours of its release, insisting it would limit cheaper, easier options for customers to resolve conflicts with banks and credit card companies.
Democrats and progressive groups have long called for action on forced arbitration, which they say denies defrauded customers of basic constitutional rights. The CFPB rule was the most ambitious regulatory effort to do so.
ON TAP FOR WEDNESDAY:
A House Appropriations Subcommittee is holding an oversight hearing titled “Accountable Soft Power in the National Interest” at 10:30 a.m.
A House Financial Services Subcommittee will convene at 10:30 a.m. for a hearing on “Examining the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program.”
A House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on data security following the massive Equifax breach at 2 p.m.
Representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter will testify before both the House and Senate Intelligence committees on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election through social media. The hearings come as some lawmakers float tougher political ad disclosure laws on social media companies. The Senate hearing is at 9:30 a.m. followed by the House hearing at 2:00 p.m.
The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on a number of nominees, including Hester Maria Peirce and Robert J. Jackson Jr. to be members of the Securities and Exchange Commission at 10 a.m.
The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on nominees, including Dana Baiocco to be commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 10 a.m.
Dodd-Frank foe to retire: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who led the House GOP fight against the Dodd-Frank financial rules, is retiring at the end of his term.
Hensarling chairs the House Financial Services Committee and would be forced to step down from his position as chairman in 2019 due to GOP rules. The chairman said the term limits marked the right time to leave Congress to spend more time with his family.
“Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” he said.
After Dodd-Frank passed, the committee produced dozens of bills to restrict or eliminate major portions of the law. Many of those laid the foundation for Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act, the most ambitious attempt to reshape the Obama-era law.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the CHOICE Act “the crown jewel” of the GOP agenda, and included it in the party’s 2017 policy platform. The House passed the bill along party lines in June, but GOP senators have shown little interest in a bill they consider too partisan to pass the upper chamber.
Hensarling has also advanced a slew of other fixes to Dodd-Frank through the committee, several with major bipartisan support, earning high marks from the financial services industry.
Energy and Environment: A federal trade panel is recommending that President Trump impose tariffs as high as 35 percent on solar power technology.
The International Trade Commission’s (ITC) four members outlined their preferences at a Tuesday hearing. The panel will send them next month to Trump, who has wide discretion to accept the recommendations, reject them or take other action.
The recommendations follow the ITC’s unanimous ruling last month that foreign imports of solar power cells and modules injure domestic manufacturers of the technology to an extent that warrants penalties for imports, under a process outlined in Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974.
Environment: The Environmental Protection Agency is blocking scientists who get EPA grants from serving on the agency’s advisory boards.
It’s a move critics decried as part of a war on independent science.
The policy, rolled out Tuesday at an EPA event by Administrator Scott Pruitt, bars hundreds of expert scientists working in environmental and health fields at universities from serving on the boards. Conversely, it would almost certainly increase the representation from companies and industry groups on the panels.
The policy change was quickly denounced by Democrats and environmental groups, who called it a poorly disguised attempt to push out experts at odds with industry.
But Republicans, who have long been seeking the same goals through other means, applauded the policy.
Pruitt presented the move as a way to reduce conflicts of interest. EPA grantees, he said, inevitably are conflicted because of the money they receive from the agency.
Energy: The Trump administration has reached a deal worth more than $300 million with Exxon Mobil Corp. to settle claims that eight of its plants released unacceptable amounts of air pollutants.
The bulk of the settlement value — $300 million — is the estimated cost of upgrades to the chemical and plastics plants in Texas and Louisiana.
Exxon is also paying $2.5 million in civil penalties to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state agencies, and spending $1 million to plant trees in a city near one plant.
Context: Federal and Louisiana officials had been working on the Exxon case for years.
They alleged that at eight plants manufacturing plastics or chemicals that are used to make plastics, the oil giant improperly modified or incorrectly used flaring systems, which burn air pollutants before they are emitted.
Gun bump stocks: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday to regulate a device used by the Las Vegas mass shooter to make semi-automatic rifles fire faster.
The bill, authored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich.), stops short of banning the devices, known as “bump stocks.”
Instead, their proposal would require people to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives if they own or purchase a bump stock. The process would include a background check, finger printing and a $200 registration fee.
Republican leaders, though, have shown no sign they will take up legislation on bump stocks.
Transportation: Truck crash victims are calling on President Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to support a number of potentially life-saving trucking rules.
Truck crash survivors and victims’ families descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday ahead of the Senate Commerce Committee’s confirmation hearing for Raymond Martinez, who Trump tapped to serve as FMCSA administrator.
The Truck Safety Coalition, which organized the fly-in, wants to call attention to the rise in truck crash fatalities in recent years. The group is demanding that FMCSA act on nearly half a dozen safety rulemakings that the agency has either delayed or withdrawn.
Health care: A top executive at Mylan is the target of a multi-state investigation into price fixing by generic drug manufacturers, state attorneys general said Tuesday.
The state officials are seeking to sue Rajiv Malik, president and executive director of Mylan N.V., as part of a larger investigation by 45 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to a statement by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.
This is the first time a senior executive has been targeted in the case, which was initially filed in December.
The states allege the companies and executives colluded to keep prices high and reduce competition.
In a statement, Mylan denied the accusations.
Technology: Facebook, Twitter and Google on Tuesday all declined to endorse a bill intended to bring more transparency to online political ads on their platforms.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who introduced the Honest Ads Act earlier this month, pressed representatives from the three companies during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.
“My first question is simply will you support our bill?” Klobuchar asked.
The companies all responded by saying that they were willing to work with lawmakers on legislation that brings more transparency to the ad process, but none of the representatives were willing to endorse it.
“We certainly support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the nuances to make it work for all of us,” said Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security.
The Honest Ads Act would expand disclosure rules for online political ads.
Technology: The Internet Association, a trade group representing internet platforms like Facebook and Google, meanwhile outlined principles for what the industry would like to see in online ad disclosure legislation.
The wish list includes oversight from the Federal Election Commission and a set of uniform rules applied to all websites equally.
The trade association wants any new law to put the burden on advertisers to disclose information about political ads to the platforms on which they’re published.
The Internet Association doesn’t want platforms to be held liable for advertising content run by their advertisers, saying it could threaten online political speech.
Environment: The head of the United Nations’ environmental office said Tuesday that he expects the United States to live up to its commitments under the Paris climate deal despite President Trump’s plan to pull out of the agreement.
Erik Solheim, the director of the U.N. Environment Program, said the U.S. could achieve its goals because “all the big American companies are dedicated to go in the green direction,” The Associated Press reports.
He added, that, despite Trump, “at the end of the day … the private sector and business are now driving the agenda” in the United States.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
Loss of federal protections may imperil Pacific reefs, scientists warn (The New York Times)
The Trump deregulatory juggernaut is rolling (The Wall Street Journal)
Longtime ally of offshore drillers oversees safety agency (The Wall Street Journal)
Uber CEO lobbies in Brazil against tough regulation (Reuters)
Good news for overburdened small banks if Powell picked for Fed chair (Reuters)
Airbus corruption probe threatens to spread to US (Bloomberg)
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