Transportation News for July 21, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 21, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/21/2015 


WHY MCCONNELL CARES ABOUT THE HIGHWAY BILL: Today’s procedural vote on a multiyear highway and transit bill is a biggie, and not just because of what years of funding certainty would mean for the transportation economy and employment. A successful, bipartisan push for a multiyear bill would be a big notch on the victory belt Sen. Mitch McConnell hopes to wear as majority leader. Heather explains: “McConnell’s ambitious vision for a multiyear transportation bill faces its first key hurdle this afternoon — the outcome of which could set the tone for the leader’s tenure heading into the fall. … Sending a multiyear infrastructure bill to the president’s desk would be a big victory for McConnell, who is just seven months into his majority leader reign.

“For one, he’d be able to tout solving a problem that vexed Democrats for years while they held the Senate majority. But just as importantly, a victory would set the tone for what’s expected to be a busy fall agenda replete with the potential for bruising partisan battles over government spending, reauthorizing the FAA and a looming debt ceiling deadline.”
In his own words: “Sen. [Barbara] Boxer and I have been in negotiations all weekend, and I spoke with her yesterday, and we’re hoping to be able to announce tomorrow a major bipartisan multiyear highway bill,” McConnell said at a Monday event in Bullitt County, Ky.

Pros get the full scoop on the state of play heading into today:

EPW CONFIDENT ON WHIP COUNT: Aides for EPW leaders Jim Inhofe and Barbara Boxer held a private call Monday with transportation interest groups, telling stakeholders that both parties feel confident that the Senate will have the requisite votes to surpass the first procedural hurdle this afternoon and that “everything is pointing in the right direction,” according to a source on the call. The staffers are said to have cited weekend work on funding offsets, as well as on the Banking Committee’s and Commerce panel’s portions of the six-year proposal EPW approved last month. Debate and amendment consideration is expected to drag on into next week.

Illustrative impetus: Nothing highlights the need for transportation infrastructure investment quite like a bridge collapse and the ensuing footage of a pickup truck plunging into the water below the asphalt avalanche. And the stunning sight out in Southern California this week has got Boxer even more fired up and insistent that Congress pass a multiyear funding bill like the transportation blueprint she and Inhofe advanced out of committee last month. “How many more bridges have to collapse before we come together and pass a 6-year, robust transportation bill?” Boxer said in a written statement on Monday. “Instead of another short-term extension, we need to work together, as Democrats and Republicans, to enact legislation that will repair our deficient bridges, highways and transportation systems.” A refresher on the I-10 bridge collapse:

MIKE ALLEN CHATS UP JEH JOHNSON THIS MORNING: POLITICO’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, takes Playbook live this morning for a breakfast conversation with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. So all you transportation security buffs had better fire up the livestream: Tweet it: #PlaybookBreakfast.

IT’S TUESDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Reach out: or @jascholtes

“Yeah I’m in love with the girl in the four-wheel drive, chrome steel bumpers and red step side. She has a large time in her large machine. Man I wonder how she gets up in that thing.”

UNRELATED OBSTACLES THREATEN SENATE’S HIGHWAY PLAN: Seeing the highway bill as their last chance to make a statement before the Senate adjourns for its month-long recess, senators continue to come out of the woodwork with threats of holds and potential poison-pill amendments. Sen. Ted Cruz announced Monday that he intends to try to force an amendment that would do away with Affordable Care Act exemptions for Congress and staffers. This latest roadblock comes after Sen. Rand Paul said on Friday that he will use “all legislative vehicles” to “defeat and defund Planned Parenthood” this week. Since the transportation measure is the only major bill on the agenda, prospects of passing highway funding are expected to get tied up in the battle over both abortion and Obamacare.

‘Open warfare’: And then there’s those dreaming of reviving the Export-Import Bank’s authority by adding it as a rider to the transportation bill — a strategy POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim and Lauren French say “could trigger open warfare within the GOP” and upend the highway bill in the process: On Monday, a top lobbying group for the defense and aerospace industries again urged Congress to move on an Ex-Im reauthorization, which benefits Boeing and other aerospace firms. Pro’s Austin Wright has got those details:

SENATORS TRY FOR MORE TRANSPO BENEFITS IN TAX EXTENDERS: Senate Finance Committee members meet this morning to mark up their tax extenders package, and several senators will try to add language that would prolong some major transportation credits. A bipartisan group of 10 plans to offer an amendment that would extend the railroad track maintenance credit until Jan. 1, 2017. A Democratic band of four wants to modify transportation fringe benefits to include bike share costs. And another Democratic contingent wants to permanently put transit commuter benefits on par with those for drivers. The amendment list: Summaries: Watch the markup at 11 a.m.:

DRIVER’S ED: Looks like everyone’s favorite D.C. delegate may have spiffed up her parking skills. An MT tipster sent along a note and photo Monday evening detailing Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s superb parking job right in front of the Capitol. MT readers will remember Holmes Norton had to defend her parking skills in March after a Roll Call video showing her struggling to navigate an angled parking spot (and bumping into an adjacent car) went viral (

After the incident, Norton told The Washington Post ( she was signing up for parking lessons. And whether that was a joke or not, Monday’s parking job was a definite improvement. From the tipster: “I just saw Eleanor Holmes Norton drive up and walk into the [House] carriage entry. Perfect parallel parking.” And see the picture:

CAR HACKING LEGISLATION COMING TODAY: Morning Cybersecurity’s Joseph Marks reports that Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce legislation today aimed at securing increasingly smart cars against hacks, according to a Wired exclusive out this morning. The legislation was sparked in 2013 when Markey first encountered the work of former NSA hacker Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, the director of vehicle security research at the consultancy IOActive, Wired’s Andy Greenberg reports. More here:

U.S. TRAVEL GETS SNAPPY: POLITICO Influence reports ( that the U.S. Travel Association is looking to get hip to the hop with the younger demographic as it launches Snapchat’s first public affairs advertising from a D.C. trade association. You can view the ads here:

MT MAILBAG: The Amalgamated Transit Union and the Community Transportation Association of America joined with dozens of other groups in writing this week to House and Senate transportation leaders, urging them to “increase dedicated bus capital funding to levels consistent with documented national needs so that transit agencies large and small no longer have to choose between routine maintenance and putting service on the road. The letter:


— Tesla just did something really big. Bloomberg View:

— Up in the air: Meet the man who flies around the world for free. Rolling Stone:

— Throwing taxpayers under the bus: Should Albuquerque rapid transit receive federal subsidies? The Rio Grande Foundation:

— Sen. Bill Nelson cancer-free after prostate surgery. POLITICO:

— De Blasio declines to debate Uber. Capital New York:

— Democratic senators vow transportation bill fight over safety. Reuters:

— California bridge passed inspection, failed in flash flood. AP:

— Inside the fake town in Michigan where self-driving cars are being tested. The Washington Post:

— Report: Vintage car values are boosted by social media. Bloomberg Business:

— Uber crashes the Democratic party. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 11 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 73 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 479 days.

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