Overnight Regulation: Trump talks 'comprehensive' approach on guns | Energy industry seeks leeway in climate rule replacement | Regulators want details on Kushner loans | Senate panel approves FTC picks

Overnight Regulation: Trump talks 'comprehensive' approach on guns | Energy industry seeks leeway in climate rule replacement | Regulators want details on Kushner loans | Senate panel approves FTC picks
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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 Wednesday night in Washington, where President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again MORE and lawmakers honored the late Rev. Bill Graham at the Capitol.

 

THE BIG STORY

President Trump on Wednesday called for a comprehensive approach to gun reform, challenging a number of long-held Republican positions and diving head first into the politically charged debate over guns.

The president, who has been eager to take action following a deadly shooting at a Florida high school this month, hosted a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House to explore potential ways to curb gun violence.

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But instead of focusing on areas of bipartisan consensus, Trump spent a majority of the hour-long meeting voicing support for a hodge-podge of ideas that are anathema to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and likely to give conservatives heartburn.

The president appeared eager to position himself as a Republican who is willing to stand up to the powerful gun group and pushed GOP lawmakers to do the same. 

"Some of you are petrified of the NRA," Trump said. "They do have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don't need it, what do I need?"

Still, Trump did express support for ending gun-free school zones, which is a priority backed by the NRA. The president also said he likes the idea of arming trained teachers and faculty members with weapons, though suggested it may be a decision better left up to the states.

Trump seemed to be in his element during the televised, freewheeling meeting, which allowed him to play the role of dealmaker-in-chief. 

The Hill's Melanie Zanona has more here.

Trump told lawmakers he would ban bump stocks "quickly." President Trump said Wednesday he will sign an executive order banning bump stocks, devices that allow semi-automatic to be modified to shoot hundreds of rounds per minute.

"I'm going to write that out, because we can do that with an executive order ... we'll have that done pretty quickly, they're working on it right now, the lawyers," Trump said during a White House meeting, interrupting Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 2020 debates complicate Senate plans for vote on Trump's war authority Senate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack MORE (R-Texas) when he began to discuss the gun device.

Bump stocks came to the forefront of the gun control debate after the deadly mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in October that left nearly 60 dead and more than 500 injured. The gunman in that incident allegedly used a bump stock device, but there has not been mention of one used in the most recent mass shooting in a Florida high school.

What's the status of the regulations? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) put out a notice of proposed rulemaking in December. But it has been unclear whether the ATF actually has the authority to ban bump stocks.

Does DOJ have authority? Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAttorney General Barr plays bagpipes at conference Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama Trump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake MORE on Tuesday said Justice Department lawyers believe they do have the authority to ban the devices through regulations.

Read the full story from Jordain Carney here.

 

More on the gun debate: 

Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin on 'Medicare for All': 'We can't even pay for Medicare for some' Overnight Energy: New EPA rule could expand officials weighing in on FOIA requests | Trump plan to strip conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback | Agriculture chief downplays climate concerns Trump plan to strip public land conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback MORE (W.Va.) Wednesday said a bill banning sales of the AR-15, the gun reportedly used in this month's Florida high school shooting, couldn't pass Congress.

"This is a difficult one. There is not enough votes to pass that, to repeal that," Manchin told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if Congress should ban the gun.

Pressed if he personally would vote for an AR-15 ban, Manchin said the people he knows who own the gun aren't using it to break the law. "I wouldn't take their gun away."

Manchin is facing reelection this year, and participated in a White House meeting on gun control Wednesday.

Congress is under growing pressure to pass new legislation after the shooting, but what, if anything, could muster enough support to clear the GOP-controlled Congress remains unclear.

Jordain Carney has more here.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) pressed President Trump not to raise the legal age for purchasing certain guns during a weekend meeting, according to a report by CNN.

Citing a senior administration official, CNN said officials with the NRA argued the age limit for buying high-powered rifles, often described as assault weapons or assault rifles by their opponents, should remain at 18.

The administration official told CNN that Trump and the NRA will not have the same opinions on everything.

Rebecca Savransky has the story here.

Dick's Sporting Goods announced early Wednesday it will stop selling assault-style rifles.

Dick's also said it will no longer allow people who are under the age of 21 to purchase a gun and stop selling high-capacity magazines.

The move by one of the largest sports retailers comes just weeks after a mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people and wounding more than a dozen others. The shooting has sparked a wave of activism among students, who have been demanding that lawmakers act to prevent future school shootings.

Rebecca Savransky has more on the decision here.

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the cybersecurity of the nation's energy infrastructure.

The Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on implementing positive train control, a key safety feature.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the president's infrastructure plan.

 

REG ROUNDUP

Energy: Energy companies and their allies want the Trump administration to give them a wide amount of leeway when writing a replacement to the Obama administration's climate change rule for power plants.

In comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which were due this week, fossil fuel interests, utilities, business groups and others asked the agency to write a rule that doesn't require any coal-fired power plants to shut down, doesn't mandate any actions outside of the power plants themselves and that gives state leaders maximum flexibility in deciding how to comply.

"EPA should fully recognize state authority to determine standards of performance that are less strict than they might otherwise be based on a particular source's remaining useful life or other factors," the National Mining Association told the agency.

"This, of course, is no more than what section 111(d) [of the Clean Air Act] explicitly provides, but EPA should clearly express in the replacement rule that it intends to allow states to fully consider these factors given that EPA prevented states from doing so in the [Clean Power Plan]," it said, referring to the section of law under which the Obama administration wrote its rule.

The EPA solicited the comments last year as part of an effort to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, the central piece of the Obama administration's second-term climate change agenda.

If industry has their way, the EPA would give states instructions for how to craft their own emissions goals. The EPA would have little authority to second-guess those plans, nor would the agency be able to set emissions limits.

Read more from Timothy Cama.

Technology: The Senate Commerce Committee approved President Trump's four nominees to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The panel unanimously voted to confirm Joseph Simons, Trump's pick to chair the agency, Rohit Chopra, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson.

The FTC has had just two commissioners since the Trump administration came into office more than a year ago.

Harper Neidig has the story here.

Finance: Banking regulators in New York have asked a German bank and two local lenders for details on their relationships with White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to appear at fundraiser for Jim Jordan: report Trump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE, President Trump's son-in-law.

New York's Department of Financial Services sent requests to Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank and the New York Community Bank for documentation on their communications with Kushner businesses regarding loan requests, according to Bloomberg.

A spokeswoman for the family's businesses, Kushner Cos., which Kushner divested himself from upon entering the administration, said the company had not received a letter and told Bloomberg the inquiries were "harassment solely for political reasons."

Josh Delk has more here.

Technology: The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month on a proposal to speed up the deployment of 5G networks by allowing certain wireless facilities to bypass environmental impact reviews and other assessments.

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr announced the proposal in a speech Wednesday, saying that removing regulatory barriers will help the U.S. remain competitive as countries around the world prepare to roll out the new technology.

The proposal would exempt small wireless facilities from having to obtain environmental and historic reviews that Carr says were intended for larger cell sites. He believes that the move would halve the deployment time for small sites and cut regulatory costs by as much as 80 percent.

Read more from Harper Neidig here.

Environment: A group of Democratic state attorneys general has taken 80 legal actions against the Trump administration over environmental policies, and is promising even more.

report released by a group helping the attorneys general outlined the lawsuits and other actions in areas like greenhouse gas pollution, energy efficiency, methane, water pollution, ozone and more, often resulting in victories.

Four of the attorneys general told reporters Tuesday that they will not relent in their legal fights.

Read more from The Hill's Timothy Cama.

Energy: American solar company SunPower will lay off about 3 percent of its workforce in March, a decision that comes after President Trump began imposing new tariffs on imported solar materials earlier this month

SunPower has already started the process of laying off between 150 and 250 workers, largely from its research and development and marketing positions, CEO Tom Werner told The Hill. The cuts will amount to about a 10 decrease in operational expenses.

The cuts made by the publicly traded company, which is based in San Jose, Calif., are largely an effort to stop the bleeding from the new costs associated with the 30 percent tariffs, Werner said.

The tariff, announced in late January, was seen as a major blow for the $28 billion solar industry, which gets about 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports.

SunPower is one of many U.S. solar companies hoping to qualify for a waiver from the tariff. 

Read more from Miranda Green here.

Environment: Two Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns over the Interior Department's expected decision Wednesday to lower royalty rates on oil drilled offshore.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote Maine shakes up debate with tough internet privacy law MORE (Wash.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrats on the Senate and House natural resources committees, respectively, sent a joint letter Tuesday night to Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Exclusive: Trump administration delayed releasing documents related to Yellowstone superintendent's firing Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage MORE pressing him for details on the department's decision-making process.

Interior's Royalty Policy Committee (RPC) is expected to vote Wednesday to lower royalty rates from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent, based on recommendations made by another panel in early February. The lowest rate government is allowed to charge for such leases is 12.5 percent. Democrats likened to move to a fire sale.

Miranda Green has the rest of the story here.

Courts: A majority of justices on the Supreme Court appeared skeptical Wednesday of a Minnesota law banning political hats, T-shirts, buttons or badges from being worn in polling places.

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether the law was too broad.

"It does reach quite a bit beyond what I think a reasonable observer would think is necessary," he said.

The case centers on whether the restrictions violate the First Amendment.

State officials have interpreted the law to include any clothing or accessory that a reasonable observer sees as having a political connotation, including anything that names a candidate or politically affiliated group like the AFL-CIO or Chamber of Commerce.

Lydia Wheeler has the story here.

Technology: A majority of Americans are concerned that the government isn't doing enough to regulate technology companies, according to a new Axios-Survey Monkey poll.

The online survey, which was carried out from Feb. 21 to 23, found that 55 percent of respondents are "more concerned" that the government won't regulate technology companies enough in the future.

In November, the same poll found that 40 percent were more concerned that government wouldn't do enough to regulate tech.

Luis Sanchez has the rundown here.

Energy: The Trump administration's delays in funding projects for a Department of Energy (DOE) program created significant uncertainty for funding recipients, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.

All of the projects that were supposed to get funds from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) eventually got their money.

But the review program that the Trump administration undertook for several months last year to figure out if the projects fit within the new administration's priorities caused a great deal of problems.

DOE's financial assistance review process created uncertainty, which led to a variety of impacts -- the most frequently cited of which were potentially delayed project timelines and difficulties staffing project teams," the GAO said in a Wednesday report, citing 10 funding recipients it picked to interview.

Timothy Cama has the rest of the story here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS:

CFTC steps up enforcement against fraud, manipulation -- The Wall Street Journal

Special education rule issued by Obama administration is delayed -- The Wall Street Journal

Key Republican warns big tech: Step up or be regulated -- Axios

Google's shopping rivals call for action from EU antitrust watchdog -- Reuters

Facebook's EU regulator says WhatsApp yet to resolve data sharing issue -- Reuters

CFTC allows employees to invest in cryptocurrencies -- Bloomberg