Transportation News for July 13, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 13, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/13/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle, Michael Grunwald and Katy O’Donnell

BICAMERAL SHOWDOWN LOOMS OVER TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: The House only plans to log a dozen more workdays before closing the chamber doors for August recess just as transportation funding and authority are set to expire at month’s end. And still, the rift remains between strategies supported at each end of the Capitol.
Cross-Congress divide: Our Heather Caygle reports that a clash between the two chambers is brewing as the Senate is expected to bring a multi-year bill to the floor this week and House leaders prepare to advance legislation that would drag only through year’s end. Heather explains that “the midsummer showdown would be an unwanted, messy clash for Republican leaders who are trying to present a unified front as they continue to bat down House GOP insurgents and try to stave off a September government shutdown as they gear up to face off against Democrats over federal spending. Divisions between GOP leaders on the topic have been evident for weeks, but intra-party bickering could quickly escalate if both chambers charge ahead with vastly different funding proposals.”

Shifting rhetoric: The conflicting talking points haven’t been isolated to Republican ranks, though. In the Senate, Chuck Schumer has been siding with House Republican leaders in favor of a year-end patch in tandem with efforts to clear a long-term bill paired with an international tax overhaul. Heather notes that, on this one, the aspiring Democratic leader has been “sounding a lot like a Republican lately. … Schumer’s shift stands in sharp contrast to what Senate Democrats, led by the New York lawmaker, have been shouting on repeat over the last month: that Republicans need to come up with a long-term bill or else.”

Winner takes all: Rep. Paul Ryan said on Friday ( that House leaders “anticipate moving on a patch as soon as possible,” to give lawmakers time to work through a six-year bill funded through repatriation. But a bipartisan group of House lawmakers is growing impatient with the behind-the-scenes wrangling and wants leaders to bring forth the major funding options under a “Queen of the Hill” rule that would allow a vote on all choices at once, resulting in passage of whichever plan emerges most popular. The group, led by Democratic Rep. Peter Welch and GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, called again Friday for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to set a vote on the different funding alternatives:

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“Drivin’ down the road again, a highway that never ends. Taking naps in my old car, singing in guitar bars. Killing time with cafe queens and truckers playin’ slot machines.”

THE PERKS OF BEING CHAIRMAN: Louisiana is quickly becoming a more popular locale than the Capitol for Senate Small Business Committee hearings. Chairman David Vitter — who happens to be a contender in the state’s October gubernatorial election — will gavel in another home-state field hearing this afternoon, bringing the total to four over the past two and a half months. This one will be in Livingston, a town of less than 2,000 that sits along Interstate 12, some 30 miles east of Baton Rouge. The president and CEO of the Livingston Economic Development Council will testify alongside local business leaders about how to relieve traffic congestion and improve the flow of commerce:

‘On the federal dime’: Bloomberg’s Rich Rubin reported earlier this month on the fact that Vitter’s panel has held 10 hearings back home and eight in Washington this year, “criss-crossing Louisiana for the past six months, holding public events about the issues at the core of his campaign for governor: transportation, energy, flood insurance, and taxes. … all of that on the federal dime.”


Monday — Reps. Barbara Comstock, Debbie Dingell, Richard Hanna and Jim Renacci attend a dinner with talk about transportation infrastructure, hosted by The Hill newspaper and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers:

Tuesday — NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind holds a press conference down in Orlando to bring public awareness to the need to replace Takata airbags, which are particularly vulnerable to explosion in humid regions like the Sunshine State.

House appropriators mark up their fiscal 2016 homeland security spending bill, which includes funding levels for the TSA: House Homeland Security Committee lawmakers press the DHS inspector general and an assistant commissioner for Customs and Border Protection about securing the nation’s maritime borders:

On the Senate side, Armed Services Committee members vet Gen. Darren McDew to be commander of DOD’s Transportation Command (, while the Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on infrastructure challenges and opportunities in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories:

The NTSB meets to determine the probable cause of the fatal April crash of a Boeing 747 that was departing from Afghanistan. And the Coast Guard’s advisory committee on the merchant marine meets to talk over guidelines on mitigating and managing fatigue:

Wednesday — Working his way South, Rosekind holds another press conference in Miami about the need for drivers to replace Takata airbags.

Senate EPW holds a confirmation hearing to question Greg Nadeau, the president’s pick to permanently run FHWA: And the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questions officials from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement about threats to maritime borders:

Thursday — Flight attendants plan to picket throughout the country to rally support for contract negotiations with United Airlines: A House Homeland Security subcommittee holds a hearing on the Federal Air Marshal Service and whether the corps is prepared for “the evolving threat”:

FREEDOM CAUCUS FLEXES NEWFOUND INFLUENCE: Members of the House Freedom Caucus have some ambitious goals that could complicate passage of transportation funding legislation this summer and beyond. POLITICO’s Lauren French reports that the caucus’ three dozen members are plotting to use “their growing clout to try to block some initiatives — such as the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and raising spending caps — and, in a shift toward pragmatism, to accept other bills but try to make them more conservative, like a controversial highway funding measure.” Because supporters of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank dream of adding that authority to whatever transportation funding plan moves forward this month, the group’s opposition will be yet another hurdle in the already-arduous effort to cull support for a highway plan.

BLUMENTHAL VOWS TO DOG TAKATA: Sen. Richard Blumenthal says he’s going to keep pressing Takata to reconsider its “callous misjudgment” in deciding not to create a compensation fund for those killed by the company’s faulty airbags. The Japanese airbag manufacturer informed the senator of its decision last week, writing that, “at the present time, given the limited number of claims filed and the … procedures in place that permit the efficient coordination of related claims, Takata believes that a national compensation fund is not currently required.” That letter:

ANOTHER CR IN THE CARDS?: It’s looking like DOT — and every other federal department — is going to get funded under yet another continuing resolution that drags out current levels into next year. POLITICO’s Rachael Bade reports that “A growing number of top lawmakers in both chambers are predicting they’ll have to pass a stopgap spending bill this fall as partisan warfare over spending levels — and the Confederate flag — have plunged the appropriations process into gridlock.” In a short interview with POLITICO, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said “CR is the worst possible scenario because it negates the work that we’ve done. … I don’t want to do it, but being realistic, that’s what we’ve had to do in the past.” More on that:

CLINTON TO MENTION UBER-LIKE FIRMS IN ECON SPEECH: In her economic speech today in lower Manhattan, Hillary Clinton is expected to talk about how “sharing economy” companies like Uber “are creating new relationships between management and labor,” arguing that “policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.” More from The Agenda:

BOXER TAKES AIM AT RECALL PROPOSAL: Sen. Barbara Boxer is up in arms over language in the vehicle safety bill ( Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune introduced last week. The lines at issue would allow rental car companies to rent cars without fixing defective vehicles as long as they notify renters in writing before the drivers accept their agreements. “This bill would give companies the federal government’s blessing to rent out dangerous vehicles and shifts the liability onto consumers if something goes wrong,” Boxer said Friday in a written statement. The senator noted a bill ( she has cosponsored that would hold rental cars to the same standard as auto deals for requiring the fixing of recalled vehicles.

VAPOR PRESSURE PRESSURE: Reps. Nita Lowey and John Garamendi are prefacing their support for the Obama administration’s move to study properties of light oils commonly transported by rail from the Bakken region. The two say that, in the meantime, the federal government should require all oil transported by rail across state lines to meet a stricter vapor pressure, as would be accomplished through a bill they introduced in May: “Everyone knows that volatile gases explode. Any reduction in the volatility of gas content makes these tank cars less dangerous,” said Garamendi, who served as deputy secretary of Interior during the Clinton administration. Lowey added that Congress “must give peace of mind to Americans living with crude oil trains rumbling through their backyards.”

MT MAILBAG: The Getting America to Work coalition is sending a letter this morning urging House and Senate leaders to pass a long-term transportation funding bill “to give transit agencies the certainty they need to invest in the critical infrastructure upgrades required for local economies to compete in the 21st century.” The letter:


— Op-ed: Follow Reagan’s example, and fill up America’s highway fund. The Washington Post:

— The airline cartel that isn’t. The Wall Street Journal:

— Amtrak will not fight suits filed in wreck. The New York Times:

— Teen truckers? Bill would lower interstate truck driver age to 18. AP:

— U.S. gasoline cheapest since mid-May after rout at pumps. Bloomberg Business:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 19 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 81 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 487 days.

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