Overnight Regulation: Trump officials block GOP governor from skirting ObamaCare rules | House eases pollution rules for some coal plants | Senate vote on Dodd-Frank changes delayed

Overnight Regulation: Trump officials block GOP governor from skirting ObamaCare rules | House eases pollution rules for some coal plants | Senate vote on Dodd-Frank changes delayed
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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 President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE defied many in his own party and ordered steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Read the latest here




The Trump administration on Thursday blocked Idaho's GOP governor from loosening ObamaCare rules, saying that the state appeared to be violating federal law.

As The Hill's Peter Sullivan reports, the decision is politically complicated, given that it is a Republican administration blocking a Republican governor from loosening ObamaCare rules, but federal officials said they have a duty to enforce the law on the books.

The administration's reasoning: "[The Affordable Care Act] remains the law and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law," Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), wrote in a letter to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

Verma added in a statement that "CMS has reason to believe that Idaho would be failing to substantially enforce the provisions" of the Affordable Care Act under its proposal.

What Idaho was trying to do: Idaho's proposal would allow insurers to sell plans that charge people with pre-existing conditions more, which is barred by ObamaCare, and not cover all of the required health services under the health law. Supporters said it would help lower the cost of plans. But critics saw it as a way to circumvent ObamaCare rules. Democrats had been pressuring the Trump administration to step in and block Idaho's move for week.

Peter Sullivan has more here.



Legislation to loosen air pollution standards for certain coal-fired power plans passed the House on Thursday. 

As Timothy Cama reports, lawmakers voted 215 to 189 to approve the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment Act. 

What it does: 

  • Sets less stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants that burn coal refuse, a waste byproduct of the coal mining process.
  • The plants, mostly found in Pennsylvania, don't burn standard coal so it's more difficult for them to reduce their emissions to the levels called for in the Obama administration's landmark 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. 

Why it's controversial: 

  • Democrats say the bill amounts to a regulatory exemption that would increase air pollution. 

Read the full story here



Finance: The Senate has pushed a final vote on legislation weakening the Dodd-Frank financial reform law until next week after failing to reach a deal on amendment votes.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday that Republicans and Democrats were unable to agree on which of the more than 100 amendments to the bill would get votes. The Senate will vote on a series of amendments "early next week," the spokesman said.

The underlying measure is expected to pass with bipartisan support despite opposition from liberal Democrats, and the battle over amendments isn't likely to change the final outcome.

Sylvan Lane has the story here


Energy: A new bill from two Democrats would overhaul the federal government's ethanol mandate to reduce incentives for corn-based ethanol and similar biofuels.

The legislation from Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham Progressives urge Haaland for Interior as short list grows Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners MORE (N.M.) and Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary MORE (Vt.) aims to boost so-called second-generation biofuels, those made from feedstock like waste products and woody crops.

It is an attempt to reduce the climate change impacts of first-generation biofuels, which some environmentalists say incentivizes destruction of wild lands and pastures to grow corn, soybean and other crops.

"A standard that was intended to benefit the environment may well be hurting it. Instead of promoting the kind of advanced biofuels that might deliver real benefits, the [renewable fuel standard] RFS has supported fuels that are not much cleaner than gasoline and not any more efficient," Udall told reporters Thursday.

Timothy Cama again with the story here


Environment: An environmental group sued the Trump administration over its decision not to institute federal protections for the Pacific walrus.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity argues that the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) ignored the threat to the walrus species from climate change.

The FWS said in 2011 that the Pacific walrus warranted protection as a threatened species, since the sea ice it needs will continue to melt. But the Trump administration said in October that the species has other ways to survive.


Timothy Cama has the story here


Health care: Mississippi lawmakers have passed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a measure the governor is expected to sign.

The Mississippi House on Thursday approved the measure in a 75-34 vote, according to The Associated Press.

The bill, which if signed into law would be the nation's most restrictive abortion law, changes the state's current law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy to 15 weeks.

Rachel Roubein has the story here



Health care: Abstinence-only education -- encouraging adolescents to wait until marriage for sex -- is making a comeback under President Trump.

In a marked departure from the previous administration, conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting an emphasis on abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

So far, the administration has encouraged organizations applying for Title X federal family planning funds to include in their programs a "meaningful emphasis" on "the benefits of avoiding sex" when communicating with adolescents and to use programs that don't "normalize sexual risk behaviors."

The Trump administration also plans to release its first report early this summer as part of a $10 million research project looking at ways to improve sex education programs, with a focus on the impact of "sexual delay."

Jessie Hellmann has the story here


Conservation: The Trump administration's decision to reverse course on an Obama-era ban on African elephant trophy imports is facing pushback from some allies of President Trump.

While hunting advocacy groups and members of Congress who back them are cheering the decision from the Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to allow imports on a case-by-case basis, others are knocking the move.

Two conservative media hosts who pushed Trump in November to put a pause on a decision to overturn an established trophy import ban are among those urging him to hold up the Obama-era order.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted a plea to Trump on Wednesday asking him to change the new policy and warning him what could happen to supporters if he did not.

Miranda Green has the story here.


Environment: Nearly half of President Trump's appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency have strong industry ties, according to new Associated Press analysis.

About one-third of the 59 appointees the AP tracked in 2017 previously worked as lobbyists or lawyers for companies in industries regulated by the EPA, like chemicals or fossil fuels.

While the majority of those appointees have agreed to recuse themselves from issues involving their former clients, at least three have received official waivers that allow them to work on issues that could affect their previous employers.

Avery Anapol has more here



Another Trump administration official has an ethics problem – The Huffington Post

Interior spending $139K to fix doors in Sec. Zinke's office – AP

U.S. Forest Chief Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Accusations – The New York Times 

The Trump appointee behind the move to add a citizenship question to the Census – ProPublica