House T&I Approves Coast Guard Authorization, Amtrak Vaping Ban

This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a two-year Coast Guard reauthorization bill and a bill banning smoking (including e-cigarettes) on Amtrak.

The Coast Guard authorization is H.R. 3409 (bill text as introduced here).

The bill authorizes robust funding growth for the Coast Guard’s procurement account and steady growth for the operational account. The following table shows the FY 2018 and 2019 enacted appropriations levels for those two accounts and the House FY 2020 appropriations level, versus the FY 2020 and 2021 authorized levels under H.R. 3409.

FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Appropriated 7,488.2 7,808.2 8,028.7
H.R. 3409 8,122.9 8,538.3
Appropriated 2,694.7 2,228.3 1,972.3
H.R. 3409 2,748.6 2,803.6

As is the usual committee practice, Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) grouped as many of the filed amendments as possible into one bipartisan manager’s package that passed by voice vote. He noted that the manager’s amendment includes legislation he introduced during the last government shutdown to ensure that Coast Guard receives automatic appropriations during a government shutdown if the Defense Department is already funded during the shutdown.

The manager’s package also included a provision directing GAO to analyze how much of the last ten years of Coast Guard budgets went to support defense readiness missions and how that actual spending compares with the financial support that the Coast Guard has been getting from the defense budget (which has been capped at $340 million per year for some years now).

The manager’s package also adds Buy America requirements to the aid to small shipyards grant program under 46 U.S.C. §54101.

Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA) offered and withdrew two amendments, one allowing broader use of hovercraft drones to service oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the other to allow what he called “backyard fishing boat builders” to build larger vessels without on-site maritime supervisors. In both cases, DeFazio said he would work with Graves moving forward on those issues.

Rep Scott Perry (R-LA) offered an amendment authorizing a study of whether future Coast Guard vessels could be fueled by liquified natural gas, which passed by voice vote.

The Coast Guard bill, as amended, passed by voice vote.

The Committee also passed, without amendment, H.R. 2726 (text here), which was introduced on May 14 by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which codifies a ban on smoking on Amtrak trains in title 49 U.S.C. and includes the use of electronic cigarettes in the definition of “smoking.” Norton said that this merely codifies what is already Amtrak policy.

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