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Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog

Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog
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Welcome to Overnight Regulations, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill and the courts. It's Thursday evening here in Washington where House Republicans just passed a sweeping tax bill.

Read about that here

 

THE BIG STORY 

In the wake of a deadly mass shooting in Texas last month, a bipartisan group of Senators have unveiled a plan to strengthen the background check system by incentivizing states to send records to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), which records if a person is prohibited from buying a gun. 

As Jordain Carney reports, the bill offered by Sens. John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Pompeo: Saudis committed to 'accountability' over journalist's disappearance MORE (D-Conn.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths Bipartisan group of senators ask Trump to increase focus on maternal deaths 7 law enforcement officers shot in South Carolina MORE (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) would block bonus pay for political appointees in agencies that fail to upload records to the background check system and would reward states that follow through on implementation plans.

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"For years agencies and states haven't complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence. ... This bill aims to help fix what's become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms," Cornyn said in a statement.

Murphy added that "this deal will strengthen the background check system and save lives. Our bill marks an important milestone that shows real compromise can be made on the issue of guns."

Read the full story here

 

REG ROUNDUP 

Technology: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to roll back restrictions on media ownership, a proposal that critics say is helping to pave the way for a controversial merger and further consolidation in the industry.

The commission's party-line vote clears the way for the common ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market. The proposal also eliminates a rule that prohibited television stations in the same market from merging if such a deal would leave less than eight different stations in that market.

The move has incensed critics, who see it as part of Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's efforts to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is awaiting approval from the agency for its purchase of Tribune Media. The $3.9 billion deal that would let the combined company access 72 percent of the country's television audience.

Harper Neidig has the story here

 

Environment: Two Republican senators said Wednesday that they won't support President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) chemical safety office.

The opposition from North Carolina Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 MORE and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel The National Trails System is celebrating 50 years today — but what about the next 50 years? MORE puts Michael Dourson's nomination in danger. If one more Republican votes against him, he likely wouldn't be confirmed to the post.

Even before Tillis's and Burr's opposition, Dourson was one of Trump's most polarizing nominees. Democrats and environmentalists saw him as a lackey for the chemical industry who, for years, was paid to underplay the harms of various chemicals. 

The opposition from the North Carolina senators, first reported by the Wilmington, N.C., Star News, stems from a pair of major health controversies in the state surrounding water contamination at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the recent discovery of the as-yet-unregulated chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River. The senators do not believe Dourson would be an effective force to protect the victims of those incidents.

Timothy Cama has the story here

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked MORE (R-Maine) also said she is "leaning against" voting for Trump's nominee. More on that from Timothy Cama here.

 

Business: Republicans have added a tax credit to a modified version of the Senate tax bill, which aims to incentivize businesses to offer paid family and medical leave. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Congress should work with Trump and not 'cowboy' on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (R-Utah) included in his "modified mark" a proposal from Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerCook Political Report shifts three Senate races toward Republicans Kavanaugh fight puts Senate on edge of precipice ACLU's M in anti-Kavanaugh ads won't target Flake, Collins MORE (R-Neb.) to give businesses offering full-time employees at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave each year a general business credit equal to 12.5 percent of the amount of wages they pay an employee if the employee is getting at least 50 percent of their normal wages.

The tax credit increases by 0.25 percent for every percentage point the employer pays beyond the 50 percent wage replacement. The tax credit, however, maxes out at 25 percent.

Find that story here

 

Environment: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator 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 will head to Capitol Hill next month to testify at a hearing on the agency's agenda.

The hearing announced Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment sub-panel is Pruitt's first congressional oversight hearing since he took the helm at the agency in February, though he has testified at appropriations hearings.

The announcement comes amid bipartisan pressure for Pruitt to come to Capitol Hill, nine months into his tenure.

Timothy Cama again with the story here

 

Finance: Democrats in both chambers unveiled legislation on Thursday designed to protect workers whose retirement pensions are threatened with deep cuts in the coming years.

Sponsored by 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) and Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Key Democrat will ask for Trump tax returns if House flips Better health outcomes at lower costs is a win that everyone can get behind MORE (D-Mass.), the proposal aims to prop up struggling multi-employer pension plans they say could sink the retirement security of more than 1 million workers across the country, largely within the next decade.

Cuts to those pensions, the Democrats argue, would break the contractual promises made to workers that their pension payments would provide retirement security -- and be untouchable.

Mike Lillis has the story here

 

Health care: The Senate on Thursday passed by unanimous consent a bill to speed up Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of medical devices and drugs to be used on the battlefield.

The bill is meant to address a controversial provision of the annual defense policy bill passed by the House on Tuesday that would allow the Pentagon to sign off on unapproved devices and drugs. The Senate passing the bill on medical approvals means it will soon be able to take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Despite passing that measure on Tuesday, the House wouldn't officially send over the defense bill until the Senate approves the separate medical bill.

The Pentagon and its advocates in Congress have been frustrated by the FDA's slow approval of certain treatments they say could save lives on the battlefield.

Rebecca Kheel has more here.

 

Tech: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to let phone service providers proactively block robocalls from fraudulent numbers.

The proposal was approved unanimously, with commissioners of both parties hailing it as a necessary step to protect consumers.

"These calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent; there's no legitimate reason for anyone to spoof caller ID to make it seem as if he or she is calling from an unassigned or invalid phone number," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Service providers will now be able to block calls from numbers with certain signs that indicate that they're fraudulent. For example, companies will be able to proactively block calls from numbers with area codes that don't exist or that can't make outgoing calls.

Harper Neidig has more here.

 

Finance: The Senate on Thursday confirmed former bank executive Joseph Otting to be comptroller of the currency, the top federal banking watchdog.

Otting was confirmed by a 54-to-43 vote largely along party lines. Sens. 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 (W.Va.) and 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.) were the only Democrats to support him. Otting will replace acting Comptroller Keith Noreika, who has filled the role since May.

Otting was the president and CEO of OneWest Bank, where he worked with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia On The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference MORE, and a vice chairman at U.S. Bancorp before that. He presided over hundreds of thousands of foreclosures at OneWest Bank, which has been investigated for multiple federal and state housing violations.

Otting will help implement the Trump administration's plans to tailor aspects of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law long protested by banks. Noreika started the process of reviewing the "Volcker rule" on proprietary trading for changes, which Otting will likely continue.

Sylvan Lane has more here.

 

Tech: AT&T is hiring media lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to serve as its lead trial counsel in case the Justice Department files a lawsuit to block a potential merger with Time Warner.

Petrocelli, a partner at the firm O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, has previously worked for clients including Disney and President Trump, whom he defended in fraud lawsuits over the Trump University real estate training program.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed the hiring to The Hill.

The DOJ is reportedly considering a lawsuit to stop the $85 billion deal between AT&T and Time Warner.

Read more from Ali Breland here.

 

Hunting: The Trump administration is reversing an Obama administration ban on bringing to the United States the heads of elephants killed in two African countries.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it has determined that hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” which is the standard by which officials judge whether to allow imports of parts — known as trophies — of the animals.

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” an FWS spokesman said in a statement late Wednesday after hunting group Safari Club International announced the policy.

Imports will be allowed for elephants killed between Jan. 21 and the end of 2018.

Read more from Timothy Cama here.

 

IN OTHER NEWS 

Meet the powerful group behind Trump's judicial nominations - The Hill

Interior watchdog says Zinke did not properly document his travel - The Hill

We have an opioid overdose crisis, but cigarettes still kill 15 times more people - Vox 

HHS pick at odds with Trump's rhetoric on drug prices - Roll Call 

Feds arrest more than 200 MS 13 gang members - The Washington Examiner 

Grassley rips up 'blue slip' for a pair of Trump court picks - Politico