Overnight Regulation: FDA rule to limit nicotine in cigarettes moves forward | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule | House GOP threatens to hold up Senate Dodd-Frank rollback

Overnight Regulation: FDA rule to limit nicotine in cigarettes moves forward | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule | House GOP threatens to hold up Senate Dodd-Frank rollback
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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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE reportedly plans to call for the death penalty for certain drug dealers. Read about it here



The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday took the first step in creating a new rule to reduce the level of nicotine allowed in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels.

In an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, FDA asked the public to submit comments over the next 90 days on the impact of a product standard for the maximum nicotine level in cigarettes.

"Tobacco use causes a tremendous toll of death and disease every year and these effects are ultimately the result of addiction to the nicotine contained in combustible cigarettes, leading to repeated exposure to toxicants from such cigarettes," the agency said in the notice.


"This nicotine addiction causes users to engage in compulsive use, makes quitting less likely and, therefore, repeatedly exposes them and others to thousands of toxicants in combusted tobacco products."

The FDA first announced in July that it was planning to start a public dialogue about writing such a rule.

"Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts -- and we believe it's vital that we pursue this common ground," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said at the time.


The agency is asking the public to comment on 

  • What the appropriate nicotine level should be
  • How the limits should be implemented
  • How nicotine levels should be tested
  • What the economic impact will be
  • Possible counter effects, such as whether the rule would create a black market for cigarettes with more nicotine

Read the full story here



A divided federal appeals court on Thursday tossed out an Obama-era Department of Labor rule that required financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the fiduciary rule bears the hallmarks of "unreasonableness" and constitutes an arbitrary and capricious exercise of administrative power.  

The lawsuit stems from a challenge the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and eight other business and financial groups brought against the rule.

The groups argued the DOL erased universally recognized distinctions between salespeople and fiduciary advisers and reconfigured relationships among financial and insurance representatives and their customers in setting the new standards of conduct.

In the rule, DOL revised the meaning of an "investment-advice fiduciary" under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act to include brokers and insurance agents. The change made them subject to new limits on the types of services for fees or compensation they can provide.

"Never before has the mere act of being a salesperson--of recommending the purchase of your company's product--been deemed an act that marks you as a fiduciary," the business groups argued in court documents.

In a scathing majority opinion, Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee, agreed.

"Only in DOL's semantically created world do salespeople and insurance brokers have 'authority' or 'responsibility' to 'render investment advice,'" Jones wrote in the court's opinion.

"The DOL interpretation, in sum, attempts to rewrite the law that is the sole source of its authority. This it cannot do."

Read more here.




A top Republican chairman said Thursday that House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIs Joe Biden finished? Krystal Ball previews fifth Democratic debate Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled MORE (R-Wis.) will hold a recently passed Senate bill to loosen strict banking rules unless senators are willing to cut a deal with the lower chamber.

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHouse passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that Ryan said the bipartisan Senate bill to rollback the Dodd-Frank Act will "stay on his desk" unless senators agree to negotiate with the House.

"We're not rubber stamping the bill," said Hensarling, a close Ryan ally. "It's got to be bipartisan and bicameral."
The Senate passed on Wednesday the most sweeping changes to Dodd-Frank to earn bipartisan support. The bill, sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Nearing finish line, fight for cannabis banking bill shifts to the Senate MORE (R-Idaho), was backed by 13 Democrats and would exempts dozens of banks from tougher federal oversight.

House Republicans have insisted that the Senate add a slew of Financial Services panel bills that passed with at least some bipartisan support. Moderate Senate Democrats behind the bipartisan bill say they're not willing to reopen the bill with the House and would disown major changes. They say excessive tinkering would break the fragile bipartisan balance behind their deal.

Sylvan Lane has the story here.


Energy: Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerrySondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep Overnight Energy: BLM employees who buck relocation must leave by early next year | Trump officials move to weaken efficiency standards for quick dishwashers | California officials boycott LA auto show in warning to industry Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Senate eyes sending stopgap spending bill back to House | Sondland delivers bombshell impeachment testimony | Pentagon deputy says he didn't try to block official's testimony MORE sought to assure House lawmakers Thursday that his proposed cuts to various programs does not mean he thinks they're unimportant.

Perry said certain programs, like the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, are victims of their own successes and are eyed for cuts because they have met their goals.

"Just because a line item was reduced didn't necessarily mean that that particular line had fallen out of favor," Perry told the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee with authority over his department.

"We've had some successes, and we ought to be celebrating those successes."

The Energy Department's overall budget request, at $30.6 billion, is slightly higher than its current funding level. But some programs that focus on areas like renewable energy would be cut, while programs in areas like fossil fuels would be increased.

Timothy Cama has the story here.


Finance: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spent nearly $1 million on seven military aircraft trips between the spring and fall of 2017, according to documents gathered by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). 

CREW sued for records following a highly publicized trip between Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton to Fort Knox, Ky., in August.

The trip, on a military jet, coincided with the total solar eclipse, and led to speculation that Mnuchin had planned the trip in order to take in the cosmic event. Mnuchin denied the charges.

Niv Ellis has the story here


Tech: Amazon Japan said on Thursday that its offices were raided by the country's fair trade regulators over antitrust concerns.

The Seattle-based online retailer said it is cooperating with Japan's Fair Trade Commission, but did not reveal any further details of the investigation, according to Reuters.

Japanese media reported that Amazon is suspected of asking suppliers to help take on the costs that come from selling their products at discounted prices. According to those reports, the company is suspected of asking suppliers to pay a "collaboration fee" to sell products with Amazon.

Ali Breland has the story here


Education: The nation's leading labor union for government employees has filed a complaint against the Department of Education for failing to negotiate and bargain in good faith with the union.

In the complaint filed Tuesday with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said it spent months trying to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Education Department, but was told Friday that the Education Department management would implement a new agreement with its own terms starting Monday.

The AFGE said in the complaint that the Education Department's proposed CBA guts employee rights, including those addressing workplace health and safety, telework, and alternative work schedules.

Read the story here


Transportation: A pair of lawmakers on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent airlines from placing animals in overhead compartments, a move that comes as United Airlines faces another public relations crisis following the death of a dog on one of its flights.

Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHouse and Senate Dems implore McConnell to sign DACA legislation to protect 'Dreamers' Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid Former state senator gets DSCC endorsement in North Carolina Senate race MORE (D-Nev.) introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act (WOOFF), which calls on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish rules that would block the airlines from placing animals in the overhead bins and impose civil fines when those rules are violated.

Mallory Shelbourne has the story here


Environment: Two environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday for failing to provide correspondence between the agency and a prominent group skeptical of climate change science, The Heartland Institute.

In their suit, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the EPA failed to release public documents they each previously requested in August and October via Freedom of Information Act regarding the agency's correspondence with the Heartland Institute.

"While EPA acknowledged both requests and asked for some initial clarification, it has subsequently stopped communicating with SELC. EPA has provided vague responses to EDF's outreach that do not indicate any expectation of near-term progress on EDF's FOIA request," their lawsuit read.

Miranda Green has the story here.


Conservation: Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE on Thursday pushed back on criticism that the administration has greenlit new imports of African elephant trophies, telling a congressional committee that "we have not imported one elephant."

Appearing before the House Natural Resources Committee to speak about the White House's proposed fiscal 2019 budget, Zinke passed the buck on a new administration policy change that would open up elephant trophy imports on a case-by-case basis saying, "It's not my policy."

The policy, announced March 1, was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency under the Interior Department.

Zinke's response came after Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires Overnight Energy: Fight between EPA watchdog, agency lawyers heats up | Top EPA official under investigation over document destruction | DOJ issues subpoenas to automakers in California emissions pact Interior suggests ex-client of department head for major contract MORE (D-Calif.) said the administration's decision to allow the imports "represents an administration under undue influence by the National Rifle Association."

Miranda Green has the full story here.



Banning the bag won't fix ocean plastic problem, manufacturers say – Bloomberg BNA 

Trump Cabinet members accused of living large at taxpayer expense – The Washington Post 

How DOJ's face-off with AT&T could alter American business – The Wall Street Journal

After Parkland, companies are selling uncertified bulletproof backpacks – BuzzFeed