Monday, September 11, 2017

Committee Hearings – Week of 09-10-17

Both the House and Senate are in town this week with most focus being on floor activities in both houses. There will be two hearings this week that may be of particular interest to readers of this blog; one on energy reliability and one on self-driving trucks.

Energy Reliability

On Tuesday the Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing on “Powering America: Defining Reliability in a Transforming Electricity Industry”. The witness list includes:

• Paul Bailey, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity;
• Gerry Cauley, North American Electric Reliability Corporation;
• Neil Chatterjee, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission;
• Kyle Davis, Enel Green Power North America, Inc;
• Marty Durbin, American Petroleum Institute;
• Patricia Hoffman, U.S. Department of Energy;
• Tom Kiernan  American Wind Energy Association;
• Maria G. Korsnick, Nuclear Energy Institute;
• Kelly Speakes-Backman, Energy Storage Association;
• Susan F. Tierney, Analysis Group, Inc.; and
• Steve Wright, Chelan Public Utility District

This hearing is on system reliability and ensuring the flow of electricity to customers. Interestingly, there is no mention in the background memo on this hearing on how this reliability may be effected by cybersecurity concerns. Admittedly, the reliability topic is complicated enough without considering cybersecurity, but it will be interesting to see if it is mentioned in the testimony and questioning.

Self-Driving Trucks

On Wednesday the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will be holding a hearing to look at “Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and Our Nation's Highways”. The witness list includes:

• Scott G. Hernandez, Colorado State Patrol
• Troy Clarke, Navistar
• Ken Hall, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
• Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council
• Chris Spear, the American Trucking Associations

While I have focused on cybersecurity issues associated with automated driving systems, this hearing reminds us that there are other concerns that are also going to have to be faced with this next stage of industrial automation; jobs.

On the Floor

I have already mentioned the two big bills seeing floor action this week, HR 3354 in the House and HR 2810 in the Senate.

There really is not much else happening on the floor of either house this week of specific interest, but you always have to be careful saying that. The Senate calendar is always up in the air with all sorts of jockeying for position and both intra-party and inter-party wrangling keeping the schedule very flexible. The House is usually much easier to predict since the Majority Leader actually publishes a weekly schedule.

But even the staid House throws up the occasional odd-ball scheduling change now and again. Today was a good case in point. This was supposed to be a speechifying day with no votes scheduled; at least that is what the Majority Leader’s schedules said. This is typical on Monday’s as it allows for some travel flexibility for members coming back to Washington from their districts. But then, at 4:23 pm EDT, Rep. Reichert (R,MN) asked unanimous consent that HR 3732 be discharged from committee and be considered on the floor of the House. With no debate and no vote, the bill was passed.

Interestingly this bill was introduced today (probably by Reichert, but I cannot tell until tomorrow for sure until the Library of Congress prints the list of bills introduced today) with broad title of “To amend section 1113 of the Social Security Act [42 USC 1313] to provide authority for increased fiscal year 2017 and 2018 payments for temporary assistance to United States citizens returned from foreign countries”. I suspect that a connected constituent was getting a run-around from the Social Security Administration and this bill was designed to remove a funding excuse for that runaround.

There were probably very few people on the floor of the House when this matter came up. The consideration of this bill was a mere formality (and it may die a slow death waiting in the Senate for action), but there was almost certainly no legislative trickery involved. Both parties keep at least one ‘responsible’ (to the leadership) member on the floor to object to any skullduggery being played under the guise of ‘unanimous consent’; a single voice crying from the back of the chamber would have killed the consideration of this bill. So, the leadership of both parties consented to this bill being passed, and no one has raised a stink about it. That means that the bill would almost certainly have passed if it had been considered under regular order.

But, it does just go to show that the politicos in Congress can get things done when they really want to, so we must keep a close eye on them.

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