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Overnight Regulation: Bipartisan Senate bill would curb Dodd-Frank rules | Opioid testing rule for transport workers finalized | Google faces state antitrust probe | Dems want investigation into FCC chief

Overnight Regulation: Bipartisan Senate bill would curb Dodd-Frank rules | Opioid testing rule for transport workers finalized | Google faces state antitrust probe | Dems want investigation into FCC chief
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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 Monday evening in Washington, D.C., where both the House and Senate are in for a busy week ahead of the Thanksgiving recess and all eyes are focused on Roy Moore's Senate campaign after allegations of sexual misconduct.

 

THE BIG STORY

The Republican chairman of the Senate Banking Committee announced a bipartisan deal Monday to exempt more than a dozen mid-sized banks from Dodd-Frank regulations.

A bill from Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoLawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Republicans shift course after outside counsel falters MORE (R-Idaho) would raise the threshold at which a bank holding company is considered a "systemically important financial institution" (SIFI) from $50 billion to $250 billion.

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SIFIs are subjected to stricter risk mitigation requirements, federal stress tests and oversight under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The deal would also exempt all banks with less than $100 billion in assets from federal oversight immediately.

The bill is sponsored by eight other Republican senators and nine Democrats.

"The bipartisan proposals on which we have agreed will significantly improve our financial regulatory framework and foster economic growth by right-sizing regulation, particularly for smaller financial institutions and community banks," Crapo said.

Monday's deal is the broadest bipartisan effort to reshape Dodd-Frank.

Who is on board? Democrats sponsoring the bill include Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyPoll: Dem Donnelly has 4-point lead in Indiana Senate race Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPoll: Dem Donnelly has 4-point lead in Indiana Senate race Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Heitkamp: Staffer no longer with campaign after ad naming abuse victims MORE (N.D.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia MORE (Mont.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (Va.), who sit on the Banking Committee, along with Sens. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel People have forgotten 'facade' of independent politicians, says GOP strategist Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (I-Maine), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump Jr. to campaign in West Virginia for Manchin challenger Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents MORE (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill calls on GOP opponent to appoint special prosecutor to look into undercover video Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents MORE (D-Mo.) and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Lawmakers move to award posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act MORE (D-Mich.).

What else is in the bill? The bill also includes measures to expand consumer access to mortgages, reduce regulations on community banks and limit the collection of credit report data.

But hold on... Crapo and Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem victories in `18 will not calm party turbulence MORE (D-Ohio), the Banking panel's top Democrat, had been negotiating a deal to raise the SIFI threshold for months and provide regulatory relief for small and mid-sized banks, but their talks fell apart last week. Centrist Democrats, though, resumed talks.

Brown said Monday he opposed the bipartisan deal.

"I understand my colleagues' interest in agreeing to this legislation, but disagree on the wisdom of rolling back so many of Dodd-Frank's protections with almost no gains for working families," he said.

The big question: Can it get through the Senate? Other Senate Democrats are likely to oppose it, but the bill could get enough support to overcome a filibuster. Moderate Democrats, several of whom face re-election next year in states that backed President Trump in 2016, have pushed for loosening rules on regional and community banks that serve their states.

Passing the Crapo bill would require unanimous Republican approval and a major chunk of Senate floor time with lawmakers already scrambling to pass a tax overhaul and fund the government before year's end.

The Hill's Sylvan Lane has more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TUESDAY

Vice President Pence and administration officials address the CEO Council.

A House Oversight Subcommittee holds a hearing on the administration's regulatory reform task forces.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment holds a hearing on the "response and recovery to environmental concerns from the 2017 hurricane season."

The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety holds a hearing on legislation including measures dealing with emissions standards and EPA vehicle regulations.

The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing to look at gene editing technology.

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

HHS pick: President Trump on Monday tapped Alex Azar for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), a role vacated by Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceGOP on timing of Haley’s announcement: 'Unusual' and 'odd' Watchdog calls for investigation into Haley flights White House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report MORE in late September amid revelations that Price took repeated trips on government and private jets that cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

"Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary," Trump tweeted. "He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!"

Azar has a deep knowledge of the regulatory process, those who worked with him said, but Democrats are likely to raise red flags on how he'll handle ObamaCare and drug prices.

The role is high-profile, tasked with overseeing various facets of health care, from Medicare and Medicaid to drug approvals and disease control -- and most controversially, the implementation of the health-care law Republicans want to tear down.

The GOP controls 52 seats, and Azar only needs 51 votes to win Senate confirmation. 

Rachel Roubein has more on the pick.

 

Environment: Dozens of former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attorneys are assailing the Trump administration's policy meant to curb legal settlements with environmental groups.

The 57 attorneys, who all served in non-political career roles, accused EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE of deliberately misrepresenting legal settlement practices and the work of attorneys both at EPA and the Justice Department.

"Your recent pronouncements make unfounded and unsupported accusations about EPA's longstanding and non-partisan approach to defending the agency's actions in lawsuits that Congress empowered members of the public to bring when the agency allegedly fails to follow the law," they wrote in their open letter released Monday.

The letter comes almost a month after Pruitt rolled out a policy to clamp down on what critics call "sue and settle," the practice of federal agencies like EPA settling lawsuits with environmental groups by agreeing to consider whether to take the regulatory action that the groups want.

Timothy Cama explains here.

 

Opioids: The Trump administration has finalized a rule requiring opioid testing for certain transportation workers.

The new regulation, issued Monday, will apply to railroad engineers, pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers and any other employees who are subject to federal drug and alcohol testing regulations.

"The opioid crisis is a threat to public safety when it involves safety-sensitive employees involved in the operation of any kind of vehicle or transport," said Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoHillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence Trump administration moves ahead with plans to rewrite self-driving cars rules Transportation Department will 'no longer assume' commercial drivers are human MORE in a statement.

The agency's decades-old drug testing panel does not include prescription painkillers and opioids, misuse of which has skyrocketed in the country in recent years.

Two maintenance workers who were struck and killed by an Amtrak train last year while working on the track tested positive for cocaine and oxycodone.

Melanie Zanona has more on the rule here.

 

Media merger: House Democrats are calling for the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be investigated over whether he is improperly clearing regulatory hurdles for Sinclair Broadcast Group's pending acquisition of Tribune Media.

Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHillicon Valley: Russia-linked hackers hit Eastern European companies | Twitter shares data on influence campaigns | Dems blast Trump over China interference claims | Saudi crisis tests Silicon Valley | Apple to let customers download their data Dems blast Trump for 'conflating' Chinese, Russian election interference claims Meet the man poised to battle Dems from the White House MORE (D-Md.) and Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence House Democrat questions big tech on possible foreign influence in Kavanaugh debate MORE (D-N.J.) sent a letter to the FCC inspector general on Monday, seeking a probe into how Chairman Ajit Pai is handling the $3.9 billion deal.

"We request that you examine how the FCC has conducted its business with regard to Sinclair," wrote Cummings and Pallone, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee respectively.

Their letter cites a list of deregulatory moves the FCC has taken this year that have benefitted conservative-leaning Sinclair in its goal of expanding its massive holdings of local television stations across the country.

Sinclair is the largest owner of local television broadcasters in the U.S., and if its Tribune purchase is approved by the FCC, the conglomerate will be able to reach more than two-thirds of the nation's television audience -- far exceeding the current 39 percent limit.

An FCC spokesperson called the letter an example of Democrats trying to "target one particular company because of its perceived political views."

"Any claim that Chairman Pai is modifying the rules now to benefit one particular company is completely baseless," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Harper Neidig has more on the issue here

 

Political ad rules: Fifteen Democratic senators signed comments to the Federal Election Commission in support of new rules for online political advertisements after Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Russian-linked groups are believed to have purchased political ads on platforms including Facebook and Google as part of a broader influence campaign. The ads appeared to come from domestic advocacy groups and played up controversial topics to sow conflict.

"The actions undertaken by Russia should not be considered an anomaly; they will be the norm in future elections if we do not take immediate action to improve the transparency and security of our election process," the Democratic senators wrote.

"The efficacy of these efforts will depend, in no small part, on whether our election laws remain riddled with loopholes that enable online political advertising to escape the same transparency and accountability requirements of other forms of large-scale political advertising."

The proposed FEC rules would expand disclosure requirements, requiring companies to share more information about who purchased the online ads. Online ads would need to have the same kind of notification messages as political ads for television.

More from Joe Uchill here

 

Tech: Missouri's attorney general is launching an investigation into Google's data collection and search practices, claiming the company received a "free pass" from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Republican Josh Hawley announced the probe Monday and said his office has subpoenaed Google.

At a press conference, Hawley noted that Google and the FTC had reached a settlement in 2012 over a similar investigation into whether the company was favoring its own services in search results over those of its competitors.

"But frankly, the Obama-era FTC did not take any enforcement action against Google, did not press this forward and has essentially given them a free pass," Hawley said.

The FTC declined to comment.

Missouri's investigation will focus on three areas: Google's data collection practices, allegations it has been cribbing information from rivals' sites and whether its search results are giving more prominent placement to the company's own services.

"We have not yet received the subpoena, however, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment," Google spokesman Patrick Lenihan said in a statement.

Google was hit with a record $2.8 billion fine from the European Union in June for giving prominent search result placement to its own comparison shopping service.

The FTC closed a similar investigation into the company in 2013 without a fine. Now critics are scrutinizing the FTC's decision not to take action.

Harper Neidig explains here.

 

Paid leave: A bitter fight is looming in Congress over the push for paid family leave, despite broad backing for the idea from both parties and the White House. 

Republicans and Democrats are divided over the details of a legislative proposal. Meanwhile, White House adviser Ivanka Trump is pushing an alternative plan, leaving no clear path forward.

Republican Reps. Mimi Walters (Calif.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersTrump 'baby blimp' flies in Washington state for Pence visit The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — FBI widens scope of Kavanaugh investigation | Nightmare vote for red-state Dems | Five weeks to midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh ordeal thrusts FBI into new political jam MORE (Wash.) offered legislation last week to create a voluntary program for employers to offer full- and part-time employees a guaranteed minimum level of paid leave to use and at least one flexible work arrangement.

But the National Partnership for Women & Families slammed the bill for blocking local sick leave laws -- now on the books in eight states and 32 localities -- and for allowing employers to deny the use of the paid leave when it disrupts business operations. 

Lydia Wheeler has more on the fight here.

 

Climate: The White House and energy industry officials on Monday defended the Trump administration's support for fossil fuels and nuclear power at a United Nations (U.N.) climate change conference.

A group of officials, led by Trump's chief energy and environment assistant, told attendees at the Bonn, Germany, conference that nuclear power and fossil fuel technologies designed to capture carbon emissions are essential to the global energy sector, even as it pushes to tackle climate change.

A message focused on the use of fossil fuels and expensive nuclear power is out of step with the underlying themes of the U.N. conference, which is focused on greening the energy sector and reaching the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Paris climate deal.

But George David Banks, President Trump's special assistant for international energy and the environment, contended the globe can't effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing electricity access without relying on traditionally large sources of power.

Devin Henry has more here.

 

Courts: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case challenging a California law that requires licensed pregnancy centers run by religious nonprofits to post notices informing women how to get information on state-funded abortions and birth control.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) claims California's Reproductive FACT Act forces the centers to send a message that directly contradicts their anti-abortion message, violating the First Amendment's right to free speech.

The law also requires nonmedical, unlicensed pregnancy centers to run print and digital ads that they are not a licensed medical facility.

California argues the law, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block, is the most effective way to ensure that women quickly obtain the information and services they need.

Lydia Wheeler has the details here.

 

Courts: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a conservative group's challenge to a Minnesota law that bans voters from wearing any political apparel inside a polling place.

The Minnesota Voters Alliance, a nonprofit group focused on election integrity, argues the law is overly broad and violates the First Amendment's right to free speech by creating a "speech-free" zone.

The group's executive director, Andrew Cilek, was turned away by election officials in 2010 for wearing a Tea Party shirt and a "Please I.D. Me" button, which a district court found were part of a campaign to get the state to enact voter ID laws.

More on the case from Lydia Wheeler here

 

Greenhouse gases: Global carbon dioxide emissions are on track to rise slightly this year after three years of staying flat, new research shows.

The annual report released Monday by the Global Carbon Project provides fuel to environmentalists to argue that the slowdown in emissions growth was more of a fluke than the start of a pattern.

The group, which helped organize three research groups in concert to come to the conclusions, attributed the carbon growth -- likely to be 2 percent year-over-year -- to increasing emissions in China and developing nations from burning fossil fuels, aligning with economic growth.

Timothy Cama has the details on the report

 

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