Overnight Regulation: Justice, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | House panel approves bill to boost drilling on federal lands | Senate advances Trump EPA air nominee

Overnight Regulation: Justice, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | House panel approves bill to boost drilling on federal lands | Senate advances Trump EPA air nominee
© Getty Images

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday night in Washington, the House Ways and Means Committee is finishing the tax markup tomorrow, just as the Senate is set to unveil their bill.




The Justice Department and AT&T traded accusations on Wednesday over whether the company would have to sell off CNN, the cable network frequently feuding with President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE, as a condition of its merger with Time Warner.

Sources at the Justice Department told The Hill and other news outlets that antitrust officials had rejected an offer from AT&T on Monday to divest in CNN in order to win approval for the $85 billion deal.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the offer did not alleviate their concerns that the deal could potentially harm the public by giving the new company too much power to deliver only the content it produces through AT&T's networks.

Hold on: AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, however, flatly denied that his company had ever entertained the idea of selling CNN to win approval of the deal.

"Until now, we've never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ's statement this afternoon, it's important to set the record straight," said Stephenson, referring to the anonymous quotations from Justice sources.

"Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so."

Why is this noteworthy? It is highly unusual for details of such offers to emerge in public, and the startling back-and-forth between Stephenson and the Justice Department will raise new questions about whether the deal can be consummated.


It was is also impossible not to consider Trump's ongoing feud with CNN, which is run by a former NBC executive who worked with Trump on "The Apprentice."

Harper Neidig and Jordan Fabian sort it all out here.



The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing to discuss the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act



Energy: The House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill Wednesday aimed at boosting oil and natural gas drilling on federal land and offshore.

The bill, the Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act -- or SECURE American Energy Act -- passed 19 to 14, with nearly all Republicans in support and all Democrats opposing.

The legislation would provide for Alaska and Atlantic Coast states to take shares of revenue from future offshore oil drilling in those areas, end the president's authority to withdraw offshore areas for drilling and require all planned offshore drilling rights sales to occur.

Timothy Cama has the story here.


Guns: Senate Democrats are moving to ban assault weapons and a device that allows semi-automatic weapons to simulate automatic fire in the wake of mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas.

Roughly two dozen Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? MORE (Calif.), introduced legislation on Wednesday that would ban assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and bump stocks, devices that can be used to make semi-automatic rifles fire faster.

"We're introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason: so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote," Feinstein said in a statement

Jordain Carney has more here.


Environment: The Senate on Wednesday advanced President Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, setting up a final vote later in the week.

The Senate voted 49-46 to end debate on William Wehrum's nomination to be assistant administrator of the agency. If confirmed this week he will be only the second of Trump's EPA nominees installed at the agency.

Republicans broadly support Wehrum's nomination, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.) saying he will "help undo some of the damage of the Obama administration" because Wehrum would have a host of agency regulations under his purview.

Devin Henry has the rest of the details here.



Environment: Senators from both parties on Wednesday criticized Kathleen Hartnett White, a key environmental nominee from President Trump, using her past statements on climate change and fuel policy to raise concerns about her nomination.

Hartnett White, a think tank official and former Texas environmental regulator, is an outspoken climate change skeptic and has raised questions about the science behind not just carbon emissions but also other greenhouse gases and pollutants.

At a hearing with Hartnett White, Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee cited statements she had made on science and climate regulations to make the case against her nomination to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The board, which Hartnett White is nominated to lead as chair, advises the president on environmental issues and coordinates federal environment reviews and initiatives.

Devin Henry has more here.



National monuments: Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinMurkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts MORE (D-Ill.) has put a hold on all four pending Interior Department nominees over the Trump administration's plans to potentially shrink multiple national monuments.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, disclosed his hold Wednesday in a letter to the Interior Department, after Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report MORE sent a public letter complaining about the confirmation process.

Durbin and three other Democrats on Oct. 23 asked for a meeting with Zinke about the secretary's recommendations to President Trump to shrink national monuments. Such a meeting has not yet been held or scheduled. 

The administration has not yet released the recommendations publicly, although The Washington Post reported that Zinke wants four monuments reduced in size and management changes at numerous other ones.

Timothy Cama explains here.


Transportation: Uber is joining forces with NASA to develop an air traffic management system for its flying taxi service, the company announced Wednesday at a technology conference in Lisbon, as first reported by CNN.

The ride-hailing firm first unveiled its ambitious plans for a flying car project last year, as part of Uber's effort to transform the transportation industry.

Uber will begin testing the concept in 2020 in Los Angeles, as well as in Dallas and Dubai, the company said Wednesday.

Read Melanie Zanona's story here.


Health care: Three GOP chairmen are asking for a delay in moving the defense policy bill's conference report over concerns the measure would let military personnel receive devices and drugs that haven't won Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

At issue is a provision in the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act that would let the Pentagon sign off on unapproved medical products for emergency use on the battlefield. Currently, the FDA is responsible for such approvals, and its commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, believes that shouldn't change.

Two chairmen who oversee the FDA in their respective chambers -- Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenLobbying world Bottom line House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Ore.) -- along with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE (R-N.C.) are worried about the provision.

Rachel Roubein has more here.


Environment: A Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve President Trump's highly contentious nominee to lead NASA.

The decision to advance Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineThe Biden administration endorses NASA's Artemis, the Space Force Will Biden continue NASA's Artemis program to return to the moon? NASA demonstrates why rocket science is still hard with the SLS test MORE's (R-Okla.) nomination came down to a party-line 14-13 vote in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Democrats strongly objected to Bridenstine, labeling him a politically polarizing figure with little scientific or technical expertise. They also objected to his skepticism of climate change science and his past statements on homosexuality and LGBT rights.

No Republicans spoke in favor of Bridenstine at the short Wednesday committee meeting.

Timothy Cama has more here.


Technology: President Trump's nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), David Redl, was approved by the Senate with a voice vote on Tuesday evening.

Redl, who was unanimously approved by a voice vote earlier this month in the Senate Commerce Committee, was nominated by Trump in May. He most recently served as the chief counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The NTIA, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, is the White House's primary adviser on telecom policy, including broadband access and spectrum.

Read Ali Breland's story here.


Environment: The federal government's comprehensive Climate Science Special Report won't change the Trump administration's rollback of former President Obama's Clean Power Plan, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) head.

"We're taking the very necessary step to evaluate our authority under the Clean Air Act and we'll take steps that are required to issue a subsequent rule. That's our focus," Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule Restoring the EPA: Lessons from the past MORE told USA Today in an interview published Wednesday.

"Does this report have any bearing on that? No it doesn't. It doesn't impact the withdrawal and it doesn't impact the replacement."

Timothy Cama has more here.


Energy: Investigators have subpoenaed Carl IcahnCarl Celian IcahnTrump Plaza Hotel and Casino demolished in Atlantic City Atlantic City auctions off chance to blow up Trump Plaza Vacant Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City to be demolished MORE and his investment company for information related to his work on biofuels policy while he was an adviser to President Trump.

Icahn Enterprises LP revealed in a federal filing on Friday that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is "seeking production of information pertaining to our and Mr. Icahn's activities relating to the Renewable Fuels Standard and Mr. Icahn's role as an advisor to the President."

"We are cooperating with the request and are providing information in response to the subpoena," the company wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing.

Icahn, a billionaire investor and refinery owner, served as a special adviser to Trump earlier this year.

In that role, he supported a proposal to shift the task of complying with the Renewable Fuels Standard's ethanol-blending mandate to a new segment of the production line in a way that benefits refiners.

Icahn is the majority owner of CVR Energy, a refining company.

Devin Henry has the story here.


Finance: Federal Reserve vice chairman of supervision Randal Quarles said Tuesday that the central bank will soon ask for public feedback on how it can be more transparent.

Quarles, who oversees Fed financial regulation, said the bank will take "a fresh look" at regulations during his tenure, according to Reuters.

"As I have come into the job I have perceived quite an openness in the deep-state Fed to taking a fresh look, which I found very encouraging," Quarles told a banking conference in New York.

Quarles was sworn in Monday as the Fed's first vice chairman of supervision, a position created by the Dodd-Frank Act to help implement the sweeping new rules the bill imposed on banks.

Sylvan Lane has more here.


Transportation: A Senate panel on Wednesday confirmed a slew of President Trump's picks to lead various transportation-related agencies, sending their nominations to the floor.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously approved Raymond Martinez to serve as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is responsible for regulating the trucking industry and will soon be tasked with rolling out a new rule requiring electronic logging devices for truckers.

The panel also easily endorsed Bruce Landsberg, whom Trump nominated to a five-year term on the National Transportation Safety Board.

Landsberg faced questions during his confirmation hearing over a string of critical statements that he made regarding the 1,500-hour training requirement for commercial airline pilots.

The rule requires co-pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight training experience under their belt before they can get a license to fly commercial passenger airliners. Congress increased the requirements after the deadly 2009 Colgan Air crash in New York, in which pilot error was to blame.

But regional airlines have long been pushing back against the tougher training standards, which they say are fueling a pilot shortage.

Melanie Zanona has more.


Elsewhere in the news:

EPA approves killer mosquitoes to stop harmful diseases like Zika (Newsweek)

Gottlieb: 'End the shenanigans' on delaying generic drug competition (Regulatory Focus)

Pharmacies, PBMs, insurers call for opioid prescription policy changes (Modern Healthcare)

Trump, still in search of energy dominance (E&E News)

EU poised to propose 30 percent CO2 emissions cut (The Wall Street Journal)

Pollution rule is boon for richest refiners, blow for weakest (The Wall Street Journal)

European security official threatens more tech regulation (Financial Times)