As President Donald Trump goes to Capitol Hill tonight for his first address to a Joint Session of Congress, both parties fully expect him to again sound the call for action on a repeal of the Obama health law, though GOP lawmakers in Congress admit they still don’t have an internal agreement on how best to replace the Obama health law.
Back from a ten day break, the U.S. Senate on Monday evening easily approved President Donald Trump’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, but Democrats again made clear they would not allow swift action on several other Trump Cabinet nominees, as Republicans again protested the extended delays.
The accounting firm responsible for tallying Oscar votes and keeping up with envelopes containing the winners has apologized for the Best Picture gaffe at the end of Sunday’s Academy Awards, but President Donald Trump believes the mix-up was actually about him.
A senior Republican Senator on Tuesday released details of a bill that would require a major overhaul of the National Weather Service, mainly by shifting most forecast operations from 122 local weather offices to six new regional weather centers located around the United States.
“This is a conversation starter,” said bill sponsor Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the third ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate and the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
“There need to be reforms at the Weather Service,” Thune told me. “We hope that the legislation triggers that discussion.”
Thune argues a regional approach would mean better forecasting – though by looking at the map of local offices, you can immediately sense how any plan to go from 122 local weather offices to six regional ones might garner opposition from members of Congress.
As one might expect, the idea of this type of consolidation wasn’t warmly received by the main union for Weather Service employees.
“It’s one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in a long time,” said Dan Sobien, the head of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.
Using Thune’s home state as an example, Sobien told me that it would be “foolish” to put forecasters all together in regional centers, because that would eliminate the “little local nuances” in NWS forecasts.
“If the bad weather is in Chicago, the forecast center there will pay attention to that, not the weather in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,” Sobien said.
Thune anticipated his plan might not receive a thumbs up from the union.
“That’s probably a safe bet,” he said with a laugh.
The highlights of the Thune bill on the National Weather Service include:
+ Going from 122 weather offices and consolidating those operations in six regional weather centers
+ Requiring the Weather Service to do more to warn people about impending storms and weather conditions by adding “warning coordination meteorologists” at NWS offices
Also included is a separate plan that forces more public disclosures on contractors at the Weather Service, and its umbrella agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
A recent inspector general report raised questions about the actions of one senior official, who set himself up with a post-retirement job that paid him $43,000 more a year and included a $50,000 housing allowance.
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.
A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.