Transportation News for February 11, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 11, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 2/11/2015

By Heather Caygle, with help from Kathryn A. Wolfe and Kevin Robillard

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT T&I TODAY: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be on Capitol Hill today to talk transportation priorities with the House T&I Committee. As work on the reauthorization kicks into high gear, the Pro Transportation team caught up with committee leaders to chat about their priorities for today’s hearing.

Ranking member Peter DeFazio: “Where is the money?” is the first question he plans to ask Foxx, he told MT. “I appreciate the fact that the administration posted a big number, it shows they recognize the deficit and the need. I wish they’d get real on the money,” he said, talking about the White House plan to use a mandatory tax on corporate profits stashed overseas to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.

So what would he like to see the administration endorse? “I wish they would support my barrel tax or indexation of the existing gas tax and bonding, something that’s real and immediate and tied to history,” DeFazio said, referencing bills he’s introduced before.

Short-term patch coming: “I would be willing to bet very substantial sums we will not have passed a bill that has mandatory repatriation, which creates real money, by May 31, which means we’re putting the entire construction season in jeopardy. People need to bite the bullet and start talking about what we’re going to do short-term and long-term,” DeFazio said.

Anything else? “I want to know what changes they’re really going to make in their Grow Act. There were a number of very controversial provisions, including something that would allow permissive tolling of the entire interstate system, which I’m very opposed to,” he said.

Shuster’s turn: Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s first question to the secretary will be a bit less dramatic: “How are ya today?” Shuster told Kevin he was focused on making sure other committee members who get less one-on-one time with Foxx have a chance to ask questions: “Tomorrow’s not really about me, it’s about the members.”

Side note – It’s bolo time: During DeFazio’s chat with MT, the Oregonian was clad in a loose-hanging antique bolo emblazoned with a bear claw logo, which he said allowed him to abide by the House dress code rules without wearing a traditional tie.

AND DON’T FORGET ABOUT THAT TWITTER CHAT: Foxx and Shuster are teaming up after today’s hearing for a Twitter town hall. Make sure to tweet lots of questions their way using the nifty hashtag #StuckInTraffic. But don’t expect DeFazio to get in on the action. “I will probably be doing something more significant,” he told MT.

MT Exclusive – Follow the money: Transit Labs, a D.C.-based startup, is launching a new data visualization tool to coincide with today’s Twitter chat that lets you follow the flow of federal highway and transit dollars to states and cities in real time. Check it out:

EPW FINALIZES RANKING MEMBERS: After lots of behind-the-scenes drama among Democrats, the ranking member spots have finally been settled for the EPW Committee. As MT reported last week, full committee ranking member Barbara Boxer will also have the top Dem spot on the T&I panel, a slot that had been expected to go to Sen. Tom Carper, the transportation panel’s chairman last Congress.

Carper isn’t left completely empty-handed; he’ll go back to being the ranking member on the Clean Air subcommittee. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will be the top Dem on the water and wildlife panel. And rounding it out, Sen. Ed Markey, last in committee seniority for Democrats, will be ranking member for the waste management subcommittee. And look for the Senate Commerce Committee to announce its ranking members as soon as today.

WEDNESDAY IS THE BEST DAY OF THE WEEK (SO FAR). Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Know anything happening this week that should be featured in MT? Send scoops, tips, complaints and transpo-related song lyrics to or send a tweet: @heatherscope. Please don’t forget to follow @Morning_Transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still and I think my spaceship knows which way to go…” (h/t Maggie Chan)

KATKO TAKES D-TRIP FIRE FOR TSA BILLS: On Tuesday, the House easily approved a pair of TSA reform bills introduced by freshman Rep. John Katko, the chairman of the Homeland Security panel with oversight of the agency. But the lawmaker took fire from the DCCC for putting his name on bills that had already passed the House in the previous Congress (an all too common practice on the Hill). “Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders are such fans of Congressman Katko that they let him put his name on work that the last Congress passed unanimously so he could send a press release,” DCCC spokesman Josh Schwerin said.

FISCHER: LET’S SOLVE PORT DISPUTE NOW – Sen. Deb Fischer, opening a Senate Commerce hearing on freight issues Tuesday, called for urgent action on the West Coast port dispute, saying the standoff needs to be “resolved quickly.” The Nebraska lawmaker also said it’s time for other members of Congress and the administration to “pay close attention to these ongoing negotiations” and the impact they have, particularly considering that East Coast ports will be up for the same kind of contract negotiation in 2018, raising the possibility of port negotiations on both coasts at the same time.

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? Last year was a good year for flying – airlines had the lowest number of lengthy tarmac delays on record in 2014, DOT said Tuesday. There were only 30 domestic flights that had passengers sitting on the tarmac for longer than three hours without allowing them to deplane last year. That number is down dramatically from 868 domestic flights with lengthy delays in 2009, the year before DOT finalized its tarmac delay rule for flights within the United States.

Audit coming soon: Separately on Tuesday, the DOT inspector general said it would be auditing the tarmac rules to see how much weight they carry in airlines’ decisions to delay or cancel flights.

SPEAKING OF AUDITS, IG TO LOOK AT FMCSA TRUCKER STUDY: The DOT inspector general on Tuesday announced plans to audit FMCSA’s study on the impacts of federal trucker rest rules. In December, Congress cleared a government spending bill that included language pushed by Sen. Susan Collins suspending certain trucker fatigue regulations. In the meantime, DOT is required to study the effects of the suspended rules. “Our audit objective is to determine whether FMCSA’s design and implementation of the restart study complies with the requirements of” the government spending bill, the IG wrote. Read more:

MORE LOBBYISTS FOR ETIHAD: From our friends at POLITICO Influence: “Etihad Airways has hired APCO Worldwide to lobby on ‘commercial aviation regulatory and policy issues.’ Chris McCannell and Joel Riethmiller are listed on the lobbying disclosure.” The move comes a week after Etihad public affairs manager Matthew Jennings registered to lobby for the airline on behalf of Open Skies, TSA and the FAA reauthorization. Last week, U.S. airline CEOs met with two Cabinet officials to voice concerns over Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Related: Airports Council International – North America has come out against reopening Open Skies agreements with the two Gulf countries, as urged by three major U.S. airlines, giving the two groups even more to argue with each other about. Read the letter:

MAILBAG: AUTO OPPOSITION TO WI-FI BILL RESURFACES: A coalition of transportation groups led by ITS America is again coming out in opposition against a bill that would take the spectrum currently set aside for vehicle-to-vehicle technology and allow it to be used for Wi-Fi. Sens. Marco Rubio and Cory Booker reintroduced the bill Tuesday. Read the letter:


-Sen. Barbara Mikulski calls for mandatory Metro training for emergency workers. The Washington Post:

-Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants transit tax credit for commuters back to 2013 levels. The Hill:

-FMCSA establishes new committee to update truck and bus driver training. The Federal Register:

-NHTSA reevaluating its opposition against requiring seat belts on school buses. The Detroit News:


-Former Obama aide involved in auto bailout wants to join GM’s board and get the automaker to agree to an $8 billion stock buyback. Bloomberg:

-When’s the last time your state raised its gas tax? ITEP:

-Texas group wants to be the first in the country with high-speed rail. The Wall Street Journal:

-More than half of Marylanders polled oppose Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to roll back automatic gas tax increase. The Washington Post:

-Trouble is brewing for U.S. auto lenders. The Wall Street Journal:

-Opinion: To save money on rail, spend more on bus marketing. The New York Times:

-For laughs: Every day, TSA catches people smuggling skeletons through X-ray machines and does nothing to stop it. Clickhole:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 109 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 231 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 636 days.

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