Transportation News for July 28, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 28, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/28/2015

By HEATHER CAYGLE and JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Kathryn A. Wolfe

HIGHWAY CLIFF, STRAIGHT AHEAD: We’re just four days out from the latest highway cliff crisis (thanks, Congress!), and House and Senate leaders are showing no signs of retreat, threatening to continue their battle of wills until the very end. So how does this all end when the clock strikes midnight on July 31? MT doesn’t have a crystal ball (wish we did), but we’ve got a few guesses. One option is a shorter-term patch that gives negotiators in both chambers more time to hammer out a deal.
But that solution, while it sounds like it could please both sides, still has significant hurdles. For one thing, if Congress moves a shorter extension, what happens to the move to revive the Export-Import Bank? The potential complications haven’t stopped some lawmakers from floating the idea of a temporary patch. Senate staffers have been whispering about the possibility for weeks now, while some senators are just now talking about the idea publicly.

Twitter intel: Transpo guru Jeff Davis (@JDwithTW), from over at the Eno Center, tweeted late last night: “House will vote this week on a new 3-month#HTF extension w/ $8 billion HTF bailout paired with $3.5 billion Veterans Affairs bailout.” And prolific tweeter Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller), from Roll Call, so astutely noted that “A three-month extension over a two month is significant. It keeps a spending bill and a highway bill separate. Or, at least, it could…”

Transportation tornado: Yes, passing just a two-month extension that puts off the transportation funding crisis until early fall would be the makings of a perfect storm. Lawmakers will already be tied up dealing with keeping the government running past Sept. 30, battling over congressional oversight of the Iran nuclear deal and a visit from Pope Francis in late September.

From the chairman: “I have a feeling since the money runs out on the last day of this month, that the House, if they are not going to take up our bill, they may just pass a short-term extension and then go home,” EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe said on the floor Monday. “If that’s what happens, … it’s not as if the long-term bill we’ve been working on so diligently is not going to be passed. It can be passed, but it will be passed after we come back and maybe other things [are] done to the bill.”

Battle lines marked: In case you missed it, the Senate cleared a couple of procedural hurdles in its late-night session Monday, inching closer to a final passage vote later this week: And as expected, an Ex-Im renewal is now riding with the multiyear transportation bill after a successful vote (more from Pro’s Victoria Guida on that: But exactly what happens next isn’t clear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t send a short-term extension to the House with an Ex-Im renewal attached. And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made it clear on Monday that the lower chamber has no plans to take up the multiyear McConnell bill (

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG: After a sweeping GOP victory in November’s elections, it was supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows come 2015 with Republicans in charge of both chambers. But the dustup between House and Senate leaders over highway funding is just the latest sign that GOP kumbaya isn’t always easy to achieve. Dream team Burgess Everett, Jake Sherman and Manu Raju have more: “For the third time this year, the House and Senate are clashing over a major policy decision — despite a pair of like-minded leaders in House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who are predisposed to keep the trains moving and internal conflict to a minimum. …

“The dissension, which has festered for weeks, is likely to lead to a short-term highway funding bill — the outcome nearly every congressional leader believes is the least desirable for the economy. And so, seven months into Republican control of Capitol Hill, there’s still no definitive answer to this very basic question: Can these Republicans ever learn to get along?” Full story:

WHY HELLO THERE TUESDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Does Congress’ transportation bill ping-pong stress you out? No worries! This video of tiny hedgehogs sneezing should perk you right up:

Don’t be a stranger. Reach out: or @jascholtes. And please don’t forget to follow Team Transpo: @heatherscope, @kathrynwolfe and @Morning_Transpo.

An MT reader tells us that he saw Rep. Steve Womack riding the Metro like the common folk on Monday, passing through Metro Center, and that he was “very impressed” with the congressman’s normalness.

“We’re on a road to nowhere, come on inside. Takin’ that ride to nowhere…”

IN MY OFFICE, NOW: Late-night action on the Senate floor wasn’t the only thing happening in the upper chamber after dark last night. Senate Republicans were summoned to a closed-door meeting before the vote over a controversial email related to Sen. Mike Lee’s attempt to force a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Take it away, Manu: The meeting was related, in part, to “a private email an aide to Lee sent to conservative activists saying that a complicated Obamacare repeal procedural vote ‘should be scored’ against any senator who opposes it. That means that it would be counted as a mark against them among conservatives in their next election. … Another Lee aide, Conn Carroll, said his boss apologized to McConnell when he learned of the email.” Full story:

DON’T MESS WITH MR. FOXX: DOT’s got the most “muscular” recall arm in department history, and it’s not afraid to flex. After announcing over the weekend that it is handing down $105 million in civil penalties to Fiat Chrysler for a slew of recall violations, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is putting other automakers on notice that NHTSA means business. “Here we are sending an unambiguous signal to industry that: If you skirt the laws, or if you violate the laws, or if you don’t live up to the responsibility that consumers need and expect, we are going to penalize you,” Foxx said on a conference call with reporters Monday.

Rehab plan: Besides agreeing to buy back hundreds of thousands of trucks, and to offer trade-ins or cash payouts to some Jeep owners, Fiat Chrysler has agreed to three years of heightened monitoring to assess, track and report on the company’s recall efforts. “Punishment is one aspect of what we hope to do, but rehabilitation is what we hope lives on following these incidents,” Foxx said. “And one of the best ways — both from the industry’s standpoint and from our standpoint — to ensure that we get it right is to have some type of ongoing, either dialogue or in some cases oversight, to ensure the compliance occurs the right way.”

Related: Senate highway bill would hike auto recall fines up to $105 million. The Detroit News: .

DON’T FRET. IT’S STILL REALLY HARD TO HACK CARS: Chris Valasek — one of the researchers who remotely manipulated a Jeep — tells POLITICO that his hack was pretty high-tech and that vehicles won’t be truly vulnerable for a while. In an interview with Pro’s Joseph Marks, Valasek said that — for malicious actors rather than security researchers — the barriers to hacking connected cars are still probably too high.

A tall order: Marks explains that the researchers “had to get ahold of the Jeep Cherokee, purchased for them by a benefactor. Then it took the pair — who had already devoted years to researching automotive security exploits — months to discover the Jeep’s specific vulnerabilities. … That’s a far cry from Android and iPhone breaches where a hacker can search for vulnerabilities on something that’s likely already in his or her pocket and can rely on a vast trove of existing exploits as starting points. It’s also not the sort of investment malicious hackers are likely to make, especially when it would be much easier and cheaper to just cut an enemy’s brakes or put sugar in their gas tank.”

AVIATION BILLS FLY IN HOUSE: The highway cliff may be sucking out most of the congressional oxygen, but the House did manage to turn its attention to other transportation issues Monday, giving a thumbs-up to several aviation security bills, including legislation related to the upkeep of airport screening equipment ( and another proposal that would limit expedited screening to travelers approved through the PreCheck process (

Katko bills also get House OK: The Post-Standard has more on the two other House-passed bills, sponsored by Syracuse Rep. John Kakto, chairman of the Homeland Security TSA panel: “One of the bills will tighten security screening for airport workers after federal inspectors found 73 employees at U.S. airports had been given clearance to secure areas despite possible ties to terrorism. … Separately, the House on Monday passed Katko’s bill to expand the TSA’s Pre-Check expedited screening program for airline travelers. The ‘TSA Pre-Check Expansion Act’ (H.R. 2843) requires the TSA to make it easier for people to apply for the expedited clearance at security checkpoints.” Full story:


— Third world airport no more: LaGuardia is getting a revamp. CBS:

— Can you hear me now? Metro is trying to make cellphone use easier inside the tunnels. WAMU:

— Happy birthday Silver Line! The Washington Post:

— How do you stop the Uber world takeover? You can’t, argues The Verge:

— “Pilots who fly drones into wildfires are idiots. Punish them.” Wired:

— FAA warning raises more questions about Boeing batteries. National Legal and Policy Center:

— Man with no ticket arrested, boarded plane at DFW airport. AP:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 4 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 66 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 472 days.

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