December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: China a Focus in 118th Congress



China a Focus in 118th Congress
Legislators in the 118th Congress have set a focus on China in this new Congress. The House of Representatives established a select committee on China, voting 365-65 to create the panel. The resolution creating the Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party was the second measure the Republican-led House passed.
The bipartisan select committee will be chaired by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) while Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) will be Ranking Member. While the panel won’t have jurisdiction to move legislation to the House floor, they will have the authority to conduct wide-ranging investigations and submit policy recommendations to other committees.
The committee expects to hold its first hearing in March.
China will also be the focus of various other committees, with the House Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Armed Services, and Intelligence Committees all planning investigations and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee set to hold a hearing next week on U.S. policy towards and competition with China.



WOTUS Rule Challenged by CRA Resolution
Republicans in Congress have introduced Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions to rescind the Biden administration’s final Phase 1 definition of the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Pushed by members of the Congressional Western Caucus, Republican lawmakers representing western states, the CRA process allows Congress to repeal recent agency regulations in a streamlined fashion and with only a majority vote in both the House and the Senate.
The Senate CRA resolution, offered on February 2, 2023, has the support of all 49 Republican senators. The companion measure offered in the House also has broad support among Republicans, with 147 current cosponsors. The measure is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled House but would need both Republican and Democrat votes to pass in the Senate. Should the Senate secure enough votes to pass the CRA, which aims to override the regulation, President Biden is certain to veto the resolution and there will not be enough votes to override a veto. 
Republicans in Congress have been calling for the administration to voluntarily rescind its WOTUS definition as the Supreme Court continues to consider the WOTUS issue in the case of Sackett v. EPA.



PM2.5 Public Hearing Set
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will hold a virtual public hearing on the proposed rule to tighten the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). In early January, the EPA proposed to lower the annual standard for PM2.5 or soot.
EPA proposes to lower the NAAQS for PM2.5 from its current level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to within the range of 9 – 10 µg/m3. During the public hearing, EPA is asking stakeholders to share their comments on both the range included in the proposed rule and whether the standard should be lowered even further to 8 µg/m3 or only reduced to a level of 11 µg/m3.
The virtual public hearing will be held on February 21 and 22, with the option of extending it to February 23 as well. The EPA is also accepting formal written comments on the proposed rule through March 28. The EPA is expected to issue a final rule by August that could impose limits on economic activity by manufacturers, producers, and other industries.  




Commerce Asks for Comments on Aluminum Monitoring System
The Department of Commerce is requesting public comments on the Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis (AIM) system. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed in 2019 to set up processes for monitoring aluminum trade after the U.S. agreed to eliminate Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed on its North American partners.
The system, which has been fully in effect since June 2022, allows for near real-time monitoring of aluminum imports and includes information such as country of origin, country of smelt, country of most recent cast, relevant aluminum product grouping, etc., and includes import quantity (metric tons), customs value (U.S. dollar, USD), and average unit value (USD/metric ton).
Comments on potential improvements or changes to the system, which can be found at, will be accepted by Commerce through March 1, 2023.

OSHA Penalties Increased
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adjusted its civil penalties for workplace safety and health violations for 2023. The penalties for violations of the Occupational and Safety Health (OSH) Act have been increased by 7.7 percent to account for inflation. The increased rates took effect on January 17, 2023. Maximum fines for "willful" and "repeated" violations are rising from the 2022 level of $145,027 up to $156,259, while the penalty for "serious" or "other-than-serious" violations, which also applies to violations of posting requirements and failure to correct a previously cited violation, grew from $14,502 to $15,625.
OSHA, under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act, is required to make annual adjustments for inflation no later than January 15 of each year.