U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Monday that he will support President Donald Trump's nominees to fill seats on the International Joint Commission, a bi-national panel responsible for managing Lake Ontario water levels.
Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement detailing his decision to back Jane Corwin, Rob Sisson and Lance Yohe. The trio was nominated by Trump in 2018 to serve on the six-member commission, but the Senate didn't vote on their nominations.
Until last year, the International Joint Commission was a relatively obscure bi-national organization.
Trump renominated them earlier this year. Corwin, a former New York state assemblymember, would serve as the U.S. section chair if she is confirmed by the Senate.
After the flooding that occurred in 2017, Schumer explained that it's important to have a "fully-staffed and fully-functioning International Joint Commission." He is referring to the floods along the Lake Ontario shoreline that caused millions in damages and led to Trump issuing a major disaster declaration.
"I have reviewed the three pending IJC nominees and will vote to support them," Schumer said. "I urge my colleagues in the Republican majority to put them up for committee review and then a floor vote as soon as possible."
Schumer also urged Canada to fill its seats on the commission. The U.S. and Canada each have three seats on the panel. While there are two American representatives, there are no Canadian commissioners. The commission needs at least four members for a quorum.
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The International Joint Commission garnered attention during the 2017 flood because of its adoption of Plan 2014, a water management strategy for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Critics of Plan 2014 believe it contributed to the flooding along the shoreline. But the commission noted that the Great Lakes Basin experienced record rainfall that year, which was the major contributor to high water levels.
Schumer's revelation that he supports Trump's International Joint Commission nominees follows the distribution of a letter sent by New York state lawmakers, including state Sen. Pam Helming, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The letter urged McConnell to hold a vote on the nominees.
At the time of the letter's release, Schumer's office said the nominees appeared to be "noncontroversial," but the senator hadn't taken a position on whether he supported their confirmation.
To win confirmation, Corwin, Sisson and Yohe must be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Once the committee advances the nominations, McConnell could allow a floor vote.
Schumer's support for the nominees comes as there are growing concerns flooding could occur again along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Lake levels are higher than normal for this time of year, although the water has receded slightly over the past two weeks.
The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which was established by the International Joint Commission to execute Plan 2014, has maximized outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam to help prevent flooding.
A few weeks ago, Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the International Joint Commission to "take all actions" to avert flooding along the lake.