Overnight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating

Overnight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating

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, and we're watching to see if House conservatives will agree to back a short-term government funding bill before the end of the week.



Net neutrality supporters are predicting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will have a hard time defending its decision to repeal the landmark rules in court.

The agency, led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, will vote next week on scrapping the 2015 net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet "fast lanes."

"The draft order seems to say that the FCC is no longer interested in exercising its responsibilities as an expert agency," Jonathan Sallet, a former FCC general counsel under the Obama administration, said in a call with reporters Wednesday.

"I do not believe a court of appeals will uphold this order," he added.

Why does this matter? Advocates are already preparing to go to court to challenge the ruling, which hasn't even happened yet. The rules have survived legal challenges in the two years since they've taken effect, and supporters are already promising to sue to try to overturn Pai's plan if it passes as expected.

Pai's rationale: Pai voted against the net neutrality rules as a minority member of the commission in 2015, and has since been arguing that they are too heavy-handed and stifle innovation. He's also made the case that web companies like Facebook and Google are bigger threats to internet freedom than the internet providers governed by the FCC rules.

Read more from Harper Neidig here.



The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee holds a hearing to examine implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, focusing on progress and the path forward for medical innovation.

The House Energy and Commerce environmental subcommittee holds a hearing on "The Mission of the Environmental Protection Agency," with EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTucker 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 Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ MORE testifying.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has a hearing: "Transforming the Department of the Interior for the 21st Century"

The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on "Examining the Department of Homeland Security's Efforts to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction."

The House Oversight Committee has a hearing on "Oversight of IT and Cybersecurity at the Department of Veterans Affairs"



Environment: The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) inspector general said this week it will investigate Administrator Scott Pruitt's April meeting with a coal mining industry group.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a letter Wednesday from Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. that confirmed the office "will review the single meeting between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the National Mining Association in April 2017."

An Office of the Inspector General spokesperson confirmed the letter to The Hill on Wednesday.

Pruitt met with the mining group in April and reportedly urged association members to tell President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal.

Critics of the meeting, including Democrats and liberal groups, say a request like that from a Cabinet member violates anti-lobbying laws for government officials.

Devin Henry has the full story here.


Transportation: The White House budget office is preparing for the possibility of a government shutdown as Republican leaders scramble to reach a funding deal by the end of this week.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials held a conference call with federal agencies on Dec. 1 to ensure that they are planning for a potential funding lapse. Current money runs out midnight on Friday.

Such calls are required exactly one week before funding expires, OMB said, regardless of whether that scenario seems likely or not.

Melanie Zanona has more here.


Cybersecurity: The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is pushing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reveal which agencies have not fully complied with deadlines in a broad effort to identify and remove all Kaspersky Lab products from computers.

Lawmakers fear that Russian intelligence agencies have co-opted the Moscow-based firm's products in espionage operations. DHS ordered all agencies on Sept. 19 to identify Kaspersky products on their systems and develop a plan to remove them within 60 days.

A DHS representative had testified at a Nov. 14 hearing before the committee that the vast majority of agencies were compliant with the directive, though some smaller agencies without the resources to search for Kaspersky products were unable to meet the deadline.

Joe Uchill has the story here.


Environment: California's Democratic attorney general slammed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday, accusing the agency of insufficient transparency and policies that hurt the state under President Trump.

At a National Press Club event in Washington, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPublic charge rule is a cruel attack on children Federal judge rules against Sessions's effort to hit sanctuary cities Internet providers sue California over net neutrality law MORE repeatedly cited a lawsuit he filed regarding a Freedom of Information Act request as evidence that the EPA isn't being open and forthcoming.

"The issue of the administrator of the EPA refusing to provide documents under the Freedom of Information Act, as he is required by law, is, I believe, an absolute abuse of power and discretion," Becerra said.

Read Timothy Cama's full story here.


Environment: A former manager at Volkswagen was sentenced to 84 months in prison on Wednesday for his role in the company's emissions cheating scandal.

Oliver Schmidt, a German resident, pleaded guilty in August to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act.

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered him to serve seven years in prison and pay a $400,000 fine for this role in connection with the emissions scandal.

Federal officials in 2015 uncovered a Volkswagen effort to bypass emissions limits for hundreds of thousands of its diesel-fueled vehicles by installing software allowing them to emit more pollution than federal guidelines permit.

Devin Henry has more here.


Technology: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPavlich: The left’s identity politics fall apart Graham: It would be 'like, terrible' if a DNA test found I was Iranian Iranian-American group calls on Graham to apologize for 'disgusting' DNA remark MORE (D-Mass.) says she supports the Department of Justice's lawsuit to block AT&T's merger with Time Warner.

In a speech Wednesday, Warren said the $85 billion proposed deal is the type of large merger that poses a threat to competition and consumers.

"By bringing together one of the nation's leading content distributors and one of the world's largest TV and entertainment companies, this merger invites higher prices, fewer choices and worse service for consumers," the Massachusetts senator said at an event with the left-wing think tank Open Markets Institute in Washington, D.C.

But she also expressed concerns about the DOJ's independence under President Trump.

"At the same time, the Justice Department's move rings alarm bells. The President's attacks on our free press have cast a cloud of suspicion over the decision to block the merger," Warren said.

"It's essential that the courts and the public approach this case as they would any other – based on the law and the facts, and not on President Trump's repeated efforts to punish his enemies."

Ali Breland has more here.


Technology: A group of House Democrats are urging the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate fake comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the agency's efforts to repeal its net neutrality rules.

Eleven Democrats sent a letter to the GAO on Monday raising concerns about the use of fake or stolen identities in the net neutrality comment record.

"We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," the letter reads. "However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal government entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments."

Haper Neidig has the rest of the story here.


Environment: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt told senators his agency will ensure that climate change researchers and other scientists at the agency are free to present their work at conferences.

The concern from Democratic senators was prompted in part by an October New York Times report that a trio of EPA scientists were prohibited, with little notice, from presenting their work on the impact of climate change on watershed at a Rhode Island conference.

"Procedures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future," Pruitt wrote in a letter to Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight Hillary Clinton bursts out laughing about Kavanaugh's 'revenge on behalf of the Clintons' remark MORE (D-R.I.) that was published Wednesday.

Pruitt said in his letter that all three of the scientists at issue still participated in the larger Rhode Island conference, and one spoke on a Boston radio show about it.

Timothy Cama has more here.


Elsewhere in the news:

China says it's open for business. Foreign firms find it's not that simple (The New York Times)

CMS halts enforcement of some Obama-era nursing home standards (Modern Healthcare)

Inside Oracle's cloak-and-dagger political war with Google (Recode)

Bitcoin is still a 'joke,' these finance giants say (Fortune)