Maritime Bills HR 2518, HR 2593 and HR 1726, Icebreakers and Corporate Backers

Maritime Bills HR 2518, HR 2593 and HR 1726, Icebreakers and Corporate Backers

In addition to asking Rep. Hunter to vote a specific way, to express his opinion on certain issues, we have also asked that he become a co-sponsor for various pieces of legislation. Now Rep. Hunter has not fulfilled our requests and one could be forgiven for thinking that he simply does not add his name to bills, that he simply does not do the co-sponsor thing, but that is far from the truth. Rep. Hunter has, to date, sponsored or co-sponsored 78 pieces of legislation – that is bills and resolutions – within this Congress (the 115th Congress).

Of these 78 pieces of legislation, 69 have been bills and nine have been resolutions. Rep. Hunter is the originator, the author, the sponsor of 11 of these bills, meaning that he co-sponsored 58 bills. Four of the bills he co-sponsored have passed the House and are under review in the Senate. Of the remaining 65 bills, nine are being considered by committees with three of these nine having been authored aka sponsored by Rep. Hunter.

These three bills are HR 2518, HR 2593 and HR 1726 – all three come out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which Rep. Hunter sits. In addition to being on this Committee, Rep. Hunter is the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. Thus it is not so surprising that these bills came out of Committee and that each of these bills has to do with Maritime.

H.R.2518, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 is an authorization bill meaning that it would allow the spending of monies within the federal budget; it would fund the Coast Guard. This is a long bill, which due to its length I have not read – if you desire to read or skim the bill: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr2518/BILLS-115hr2518ih.pdf

H.R.2593, the Federal Maritime Commission Authorization Act of 2017 is also an authorization bill so it too would allow the spending of monies within the federal budget. This too is a long bill, which I also did not read – a copy of the bill can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr2593/BILLS-115hr2593ih.pdf

H.R.1726, the Coast Guard Improvement and Reform Act of 2017 would not authorize the spending of monies, it would change the Coast Guard but according to the Committee report this bill would make, “no substantive policy changes” to the Coast Guard. As with the last two bills this is also a long bill that I did not read, for a copy of the bill: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr1726/BILLS-115hr1726rh.pdf and for a copy of the Committee report: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-115hrpt132/pdf/CRPT-115hrpt132.pdf.

As confessed, I did not read these bills but due to the history Rep. Hunter has with pushing an icebreaker, owned by one of his main contributors, onto the Coast Guard, I did do some keyword searches, one of these searches being for the term “icebreakers” and in  H.R. 1726 the following passage came up in Section 561: Icebreaking in polar regions, “The President shall facilitate planning for the design, procurement, maintenance, deployment, and operation of icebreakers as needed to support the statutory missions of the Coast Guard in the polar regions by allocating all funds to support icebreaking operations in such regions, except for recurring incremental costs associated with specific projects, to the Coast Guard” (https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr1726/BILLS-115hr1726rh.pdf).

This then led me to do a little internet searching and without any digging at all, the following story came up: Coast Guard willing to give 2nd look at Aivik as icebreaker By Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – June 9, 2017 (http://www.alaskapublic.org/2017/06/09/coast-guard-willing-to-give-2nd-look-at-aivik-as-icebreaker/) and Coast Guard may observe Aiviq icebreaker trials By Kirk Moore on June 8, 2017  (https://www.workboat.com/news/government/coast-guard-may-observe-aiviq-ice-trials/). A press release from Rep. Hunter on the need for Congress to understand the fiscal needs of the Coast Guard was released June 7th following a Subcommittee meeting, which might be the Subcommittee meeting referenced in the articles: https://www.ajot.com/news/hunter-releases-statement-from-hearing-on-infrastructure-plan.

The Aivik is an icebreaker owned by Edison Chouest and Edison Chouest happens to be Rep. Hunter’s second largest campaign contributor (https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00029258&cycle=2016#fundraising). In addition it is important to know that the Aivik was built for Shell not the Coast Guard, that the Aivik was used by Shell, without great success, and is no longer wanted by Shell – thus its owner wants to, needs to find someone else who will lease this $200 million vessel…. In addition it is important to know that the Coast Guard has previously declined interest in this vessel (all info from the articles noted above).

I would like to point out that there is no evidence or indicator of anything nefarious, wrong or inappropriate occurring, in fact the Coast Guard may need a whole slew of icebreakers, but I am pointing out that Rep. Hunter sponsors bills, easily signs his name as a co-sponsor onto bills and advocates for the interests of his financial backers but that he is far less willing to advocate for the concerns of us, constituents that may not see eye to eye on every issue but who still dwell in his district.