Transportation News for January 30, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on January 30, 2015

Politico Morning Transportation: Repatriation bill faces uphill climb in Senate — Another death linked to Takata airbags – Senators introduce bill to repeal Cuba travel ban — McCain not finished with maritime law repeal

By Heather Caygle and Kevin Robillard

With help from Kathryn A. Wolfe

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK: Capitol Hill odd couple Sens. Rand Paul and Barbara Boxer officially rolled out their repatriation-for-transportation plan Thursday, but it took about two seconds for some key Republicans to throw cold water on the idea. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch dismissed the proposal, saying it shouldn’t be used to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. “I think we can do it without that, and secondly, that’s not what we should do with repatriation. Repatriation may be necessary for true tax reform. We’ll just have to see.” Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe said the idea could be part of a “package” funding deal but wouldn’t stand alone. “That’s not going to solve the problem,” Inhofe said. “What we’re going to try to do is do it better.” Pros get the full scoop, courtesy of yours truly:

-Starting point: While the idea was quickly panned by a handful of lawmakers, the Paul-Boxer plan is a good public starting point for the contentious funding debate that is sure to go right up to the May 31 deadline and likely beyond. Boxer said she hopes the proposal will “jump-start negotiations” and called it “win-win” for the economy and the country. The bill, which will be officially introduced in the coming weeks, would tax companies’ current overseas earnings at a 6.5 percent rate, much lower than the normal 35 percent corporate income tax rate. U.S. businesses would have five years to complete the transfer and all the resulting tax revenue would be funneled into the Highway Trust Fund. Read the fact sheet:

-What’s next: The proposal will become part of broader discussions about how to provide at least a temporary fix to the Highway Trust Fund. A handful of bills that would hike the gas tax are also in the works on both the House and Senate sides (although Republican leadership has shot down that idea). And Sens. Roy Blunt and Michael Bennet are considering introducing the Senate version of the repatriation-for-highways bill proposed by Rep. John Delaney earlier in the week. “I think everybody understands something happens to be done. There’s no immediate other solution that’s better,” Blunt told MT.

-Another take: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities folks blogged about why they think the Paul-Boxer proposal is a bad idea and how to make it better:

TAKATA TOTALS: 64 INJURIES, FIVE DEATHS: Documents Takata provided to Democratic investigators on the Senate Commerce Committee revealed the number of injuries and deaths linked to the manufacturer’s exploding airbags is much higher than previously thought. In a speech on the Senate floor, the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, said the airbags may have caused 64 injuries and five deaths. Nelson also said an additional fatality last week in Texas may be linked to the faulty airbag. Staff members are continuing to comb through the documents.

Nelson, Thune reintroduce bill: Nelson and Thune also reintroduced their legislation encouraging automotive employees to blow the whistle to NHTSA about potential safety defects. If their whistleblowing leads to a Transportation or Justice Department penalty of more than $1 million, the little birdie would be entitled to up to 30 percent of the total. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Jerry Moran, Claire McCaskill, Kelly Ayotte, Dean Heller and Amy Klobuchar have all co-sponsored the bill.

-What about other NHTSA legislation? Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who introduced a number of NHTSA reform bills last year, said he plans on reintroducing legislation that would allow safety officials to impose unlimited penalties and increase the agency’s transparency. But the same won’t be true of Sen. Claire McCaskill’s comprehensive NHTSA reauthorization: “I don’t have the chairmanship of that subcommittee anymore,” she said. “I’m certainly supportive of NHTSA being reauthorized.’ But neither thought the committee was focused on the issue at the moment: “I haven’t heard any discussion so far. All we’ve been doing at this point is net neutrality,” McCaskill said.

-Speaking of whistleblowers… NHTSA’s looking for some. Reuters reported Thursday that six Takata employees told the news agency “they were asked to hide or alter data that showed certain parts and materials did not meet Takata’s specifications or indicated potential issues with key components such as inflators and cushions.” An NHTSA spokesman said they want those employees to step forward.

Related read: Takata and Honda ask a panel of judges to combine potential class-action lawsuits related to the airbag defect. Bloomberg:

LET’S START THE WEEKEND TOGETHER. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your host is looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend and hopefully taunting @Politicokevin after the Patriots are handed a resounding defeat in Sunday’s big game.

Let’s chat! Send scoops, tips, complaints, Super Bowl predictions and transpo-related song lyrics to or send a tweet: @heatherscope. Please don’t forget to follow @Morning_Transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“I went to lose a jolly hour on the trolley, and lost my heart instead…”

** The auto industry today is more resilient because it is more diverse, with automakers from across the globe churning out vehicles in factories on American soil. Moreover, increasing numbers of vehicles assembled in America are not just sold to U.S. consumers, but are exported to countries worldwide. Learn more: **

GANG OF EIGHT PUSH TO REPEAL CUBA TRAVEL BAN: A bipartisan group of eight senators has introduced a bill that would repeal restrictions on travel to Cuba. The bill – short but sweet at only two pages long – would stipulate that travel to Cuba can no longer be “directly or indirectly” prohibited, and also nullify any restrictions on “transactions incident to such travel” including banking transactions. Sen. Dick Durbin said the group is “realistic” about unwavering opposition from some other lawmakers but “committed to getting it done.” A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House next week by Reps. Jim McGovern and Mark Sanford. Bill text:

McCAIN NOT THROUGH WITH JONES ACT: Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain isn’t through with the shipbuilding industry. His amendment to repeal the Jones Act didn’t come up for a vote during the Keystone pipeline debate,but he hasn’t given up hope for a future rollback of the law. Jeremy Herb and Leigh Munsil have the deets: “‘I won’t quit,’ McCain vowed with a chuckle. ‘But don’t worry, I had a lot of fun with it. Protectionism is alive and well in America and in the Senate and in the House.'”

“The shipbuilding industry, Navy groups and other interests lobbied against McCain’s amendment when it was announced, and many lawmakers from both parties and both chambers weighed in to oppose his repeal attempt. …McCain has eyed scaling back the Jones Act for years and introduced legislation in 2010 to repeal it. He argues that the law does not support free trade and has raised prices for U.S. consumers.” Full story:

LARSEN’S SUPER BOWL PICK: Rep. Rick Larsen, the Washington stater who serves as ranking member of the House Transportation’s aviation panel, delivered a predictable prediction for the outcome of Sunday’s Super Bowl: “I pick the Seahawks. It’ll be closer than 43-8. But I still think that defense wins championships.” (Kevin, a Patriots fan, strongly disagrees.)

GAS TAX TALK ISN’T JUST FOR THE FEDS: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill may struggle to even utter the words “gas tax hike” sometimes, but that’s not stopping action on the state level. At least a dozen states are seriously considering raising their gas taxes this year, according to Carl Davis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. That comes after eight states enacted gas tax hikes or reforms over the past two years. Read more:

THUD APPOINTMENTS OFFICIAL: Sen. Susan Collins will officially lead the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in charge of transportation funding. It’s no surprise that Collins, who was the panel’s ranking member last Congress, is the chairwoman, but it wasn’t officially announced until Thursday. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed had previously been announced as the panel’s ranking member.


-Smoke fills Boston subway train, riders punch out windows to escape. The Boston Globe:

-Paris train drivers go on strike causing commuter chaos. The New York Times:

-Uber spends big bucks on D.C. lobbying effort (WAMU: and tries a new thing – compromise (Wall Street Journal:

-“The days of wine and droning.” The New York Times:

-Missed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on MSNBC’s Morning Joe? Watch it:

-The co-pilot was flying AirAsia plane when it crashed, investigators say. Time:

-Aviation groups AAAE and ACI-NA have their own spin on “deflategate”:

-Malaysian government officially declares disappearance of MH370 flight an accident, paving the way for victims’ families to be compensated. BBC:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 121 days and DOT appropriations run out in 243 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 243 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 648 days.

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