Transportation News for July 24, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 24, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/24/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle and Kathryn A. Wolfe

A SUNDAY NOT-SO-FUN DAY FOR THE SENATE?: The Senate presses on today with its highway and transit plan, holding a morning vote on another procedural motion. And it’s seeming increasingly likely that senators will need to stick around for at least a little bit of weekend work so the chamber doesn’t lose any more time trying to reach a passage vote, which could come late next week if leaders have to resort to burning through all debate time. While their Saturday plans are looking safe, senators are being told to keep Sunday afternoon free for the possibility of another roll call vote.
In flux: Parts of the bill were still fluid last night, including an offset related to housing/TARP, which negotiators were planning on dropping from the bill, according to a Senate Democratic aide. And many senators are still mighty unhappy about other provisions, including language that would delay the positive train control mandate for three years. The New York Times has more on the PTC battle:

Some Pro insight: “The most immediate hurdle the Senate has to jump is the mammoth task it faces in pushing a bill through in the very small window of time it has before the recess. Senate leaders could be forced to run through nearly every hour of debate time in the coming days and may need to limit amendment votes to a single roll call on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. Curtailing the amendment process would almost surely spark the ire of Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who have repeatedly threatened to hold up the bill to draw attention to unrelated issues. Those two — and possibly others hoping to secure amendment votes — are expected to object to any effort to strike a deal on speeding the process.”

NOSES REMAIN UPTURNED IN THE HOUSE: Arriving at this behemoth transportation funding bill was no easy negotiation, and getting it passed could be just as daunting a task — which is why criticism coming from the House seems so worrisome for Senate leaders who have spent an enormous amount of time and energy trying to pull this one off.

“There’s a lot of concern being raised by our committee chairman and others about the policy that’s contained in the bill the Senate is considering,” House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday: Besides qualms expressed by Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Peter DeFazio says the measure doesn’t appeal much to House lawmakers because it doesn’t boost funding levels or provide enough certainty for states to start four- and five-year infrastructure projects. “A: First, it’s not a reality. They’re going to go through an amendment process, and who knows what egregious things they might attach to it. And B: It’s not really a long-term bill,” DeFazio told reporters Thursday afternoon. “This is essentially a status quo bill with two or three years of funding. That’s no huge improvement.”

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STOPGAP SCHEMING BEGINS: It’s only July, and already House Speaker John Boehner is conceding that the chamber will have to pass a continuing resolution to carry the government beyond the Sept. 30 brink of the fiscal year. “It’s pretty clear, given the number of days we’re going to be here in September, that we’re going to have to do a [continuing resolution] of some sort,” Boehner said Thursday. “But no decisions have been made about that. We’ll deal with it in September when we get back.” POLITICO’s Jake Sherman explains that “the House has passed half of the spending bills to fund the government, but Senate Democrats have refused to allow those bills to come to the floor because of an impasse over spending levels.”

SENATE REPUBLICANS PREDICT MATCHING EX-IM LENGTH TO HIGHWAY EXTENSION: It would behoove fans of the Export-Import Bank to push for an especially lengthy renewal of transportation authority, considering Republicans are thinking about matching the length of the bank’s reauthorization to that of the highway funding re-up. “I think the idea that you could get a long-term Ex-Im reauthorization on a short-term highway bill is pretty hard to reconcile,” Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune told reporters on Thursday. Pro’s Victoria Guida reports that Sen. Maria Cantwell said this week that reauthorization of the bank is being treated like a pawn by the two chambers, with some in the House saying they would allow Ex-Im to move if the Senate takes up the short-term highway funding extension.

MURKOWSKI SUGGESTS SWAPPING IN TAR SANDS PAY-FOR: Under the Senate transportation bill, 101 million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve oil would be sold to come up with some highway funding. And Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is out to nix that offset, asking why lawmakers don’t instead raise money by closing a tax loophole for Canadian oil sands. Pro’s Elana Schor reports that Murkowski also noted this week that imposing the 8 cent per-barrel oil spill liability tax on heavy Canadian crude is estimated to raise $1.6 billion, and a veto-proof majority of the Senate is on record supporting action to close the loophole.

FAA’S WASSMER TO GET ENERGY DEPARTMENT NOD: If the White House gets its way, Victoria Wassmer will soon be leaving the FAA, where she has been the assistant administrator for the finance and management office since 2011. The president plans to nominate Wassmer to be undersecretary of energy for management and performance. But the new nominee hasn’t had much luck with the Senate confirmation process in the past. After she was chosen last year to be CFO for the EPA, her nomination languished in the Senate without action, even after the EPW Committee gave its approval. Pro’s Darius Dixon explains that “DOE’s undersecretary for management and performance position was created as part of a leadership reorganization plan under Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, but it’s never been filled. The previous nominee, NASA’s then-CFO Beth Robinson, withdrew last summer after waiting nearly a year. She was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a voice vote but never got floor time and resigned from NASA to go to the private sector.”


— FTA: Metro didn’t follow the rules to undertake corrective safety actions. The Washington Post:

— Christie: I would build tunnel I canceled. Pro:

— De Blasio on Uber: ‘There will be rules.’ Capital New York:

— Poor U.S. urban road conditions take toll on motorists’ pocketbooks. Reuters:

— Keeping cars safe from hackers. Bloomberg View:

— Mass transit doesn’t cause gentrification. CityLab:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 8 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 70 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 476 days.


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