Transportation News for July 29, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 29, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/29/2015

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

PULLING THE EMERGENCY CHUTE WITH THREE DAYS TO SPARE: Congressional leaders move forward today with their fallback proposal for transportation funding, after deciding Tuesday to deploy the emergency plan rather than continue their game of chicken right up until funding authority expires on Friday night. It’s not a three- or six-year bill like Senate leaders want, and it’s not the mid-December patch the bosses over in the House are seeking — or even the two-month extension Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had teed up as a backup.
Square one?: It’s a three-month fix. And while that plan comes with the caveat that both chambers will try hard to get agreement on something longer-term in the meantime, history suggests we’ll just be grappling with the same dilemma come the end of October.

Game plan: The House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on the three-month patch, before those lower-chamber lawmakers hit the road for their five-week recess. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that his chamber will “see when we get it and see how quickly we can take it up.” But the leader is also still set on pushing through to passage the Senate’s multi-year bill this week so that it’s ready to go when Congress returns from recess.

Getting cheeky, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx tweeted a photo on Tuesday of a buck in a paper cup that says “HTF”. The tweet: Time is running out; our #infrastructure needs a nice hot cup of #HTF.

LEADERS PLEDGE TO REACH LONG-TERM DEAL — LATER: McConnell says he only caved to the three-month patch proposal with the understanding that his House counterparts will actually work this fall to come to agreement on a comprehensive, long-term deal. “The House of Representatives, as a result of our passing a multi-year bill, now feels they should pass a multi-year bill. That’s a good first step,” the majority leader told reporters. “And when they do that in September, we’ll follow the regular order. We’ll have a conference, we’ll try to work out the differences, and we’ll try to agree to how to pay for it.”

The ‘ultimate goal’: In the House, T&I Chairman Bill Shuster — making a plea for support for the short-term patch — told his colleagues during a meeting of the Rules Committee on Tuesday night that his “ultimate goal” remains a long-term highway bill, as soon as possible. “And we’ve been working on it for six months — we’ve got a lot of it put together. This three-month extension is necessary,” Shuster said. “My commitment is, right after it’s done, we all have to sit down … and say what we’re willing to do.”

Short-lived alliance: In breaking the news Tuesday that the three-month patch was on the table, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that he’s going to do everything he can to get to a long-term highway bill by the end of October. Our Heather Caygle explains that, if the three-month patch reaches enactment, “it will allow Republican leaders in both chambers to make nice after they spent weeks publicly clashing and criticizing each other’s preferred ideas. But the Kumbaya moment also sets the stage for the possibility of more intra-party fighting and fireworks come fall.”

Fall from hell: POLITICO’s Jake Sherman and Burgess Everett report that Boehner described the Senate’s multi-year transportation bill as a “piece of s—” during a meeting of House Republicans on Tuesday, according to sources in the room. And Senate Republicans aren’t fond of the House’s five-month plane, either. So even though the three-month patch is likely to pass through both chambers, Jake and Burgess explain, a deal on a longer plan “won’t be any easier when lawmakers return — far from it. In fact, lawmakers have teed up a hellish final few months of 2015, as a series of high-stakes deadlines looms on everything from keeping the government open to doling out money for roads and then, for good measure, raising the federal government’s borrowing limit. It promises to be a major test of the Republican Party’s ability to govern as the GOP prepares to ask voters to continue one-party control of Congress.” More:

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

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“Taxi driver, be my shrink for the hour. Leave the meter running. It’s rush hour” Justin Shell)

EX-IM CONTENTION LIVES ON IN HIGHWAY DEBATE: GOP House leaders say there’s no way any language reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is going to ride to the president’s desk upon their three-month transportation patch. But the issue continues to dominate the highway funding debate and proved divisive enough Tuesday night to split Republicans on the Rules Committee — a main arm of House leadership. Of the nine GOP lawmakers on the panel, two — Reps. Steve Stivers and Dan Newhouse — voted in favor of allowing an amendment that would renew the Export-Import Bank. Although that vote came in 6-7, meaning the amendment won’t be allowed on the floor, the tally is certainly reflective of the broader sentiment in the House.

Procedural sidestepping: Just because Dems won’t get a straight-up amendment vote on adding the Ex-Im language doesn’t mean they won’t force a roll call on the issue today. Likely urging lawmakers to vote against the first procedural question that will come up, Democratic leaders will in effect be calling on legislators to register their support for reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank by voting “nay.” It would be pretty unprecedented, though, for Dems to snag the bill and get their way with that tactic.

Inextricably linked?: Pro’s Victoria Guida explains that, while Ex-Im is probably destined to stay dead for at least a little longer, “the war is far from over. Though the House is expected pass a three-month highway bill extension without Ex-Im attached to it, the transportation legislation might still be the key to the export credit agency’s future.” Details from Pro:

TSA HEAD ENDURES FIRST CONGRESSIONAL GRILLING TODAY: In his first appearance before Congress since getting confirmed a month ago, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger testifies this morning before the House Homeland Security Committee about the challenges his agency faces. During his confirmation process this spring, Neffenger promised that — once confirmed — he’d immediately look for ways to make the TSA more effective in light of the agency’s failure to detect fake weapons and bombs during 67 out of 70 covert tests. And now that he’s seated in his post, lawmakers will want to know what he’s come up with. Watch the hearing live at 10 a.m.:

Related: In an interview with the New York Times, the new administrator said he plans to retain thousands of screeners to better detect threats, tighten rules for who is allowed through PreCheck lines and more aggressively police oversight of airport security badges. That story:

THE DRONE ZONE: If/when Amazon Prime delivers your duct tape and Roku by drone someday, that airborne delivery device may cruise over within a drone-dedicated slice of airspace — or at least that’s the online retailer giant’s newest pitch. Our Kathryn A. Wolfe explains that Amazon’s proposal “floats the idea that the best-equipped drones, such as those with sense-and-avoid technology, would have access to airspace below 400 feet, with the airspace below 200 feet reserved for the drones with the least sophisticated equipment. … It also calls for a redesign of airspace management, suggesting that the current model, set up for controlling single planes with their own flight crews, won’t be scalable to meet future drone growth and demands.”

WYDEN ADMITS TO BLOCKING HIGHWAY BILL ADDITION: Sen. Ron Wyden owned up Tuesday to the fact that he blocked Republicans from adding the Senate Finance Committee’s tax extenders language to the long-term transportation funding bill the Senate is still working through. “Obviously, we’re having a challenge right now dealing with what we have,” Wyden told reporters. “There’s differences of opinion on extenders. The House has an interest in some permanent changes, the Senate has in effect taken the bill that we did when I was chair. So it just seemed to me, instead of trying to resolve the problems you’ve got right now, that would just be adding more.” Pro’s Brian Faler has more:

MT MAILBAG: Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote Tuesday to NHTSA head Mark Rosekind asking the administrator to “take all necessary steps” to investigate cybersecurity vulnerabilities in vehicles, including those related to information and entertainment systems installed inside. “We have serious concerns that regulators and manufacturers have only exposed the tip of the iceberg,” they wrote. “We strongly urge NHTSA to conduct an investigation to determine whether there are other vehicles currently on American roads that suffer from similar or entirely new security and safety defects” and issue more recalls if necessary. The letter: More from Kathy:

REPORT ROUNDUP: Aaron Klein, a former Treasury Department policy adviser, is out with a report today on “foreign subsidies destroying U.S. jobs.” Klein writes that “the end of a level playing field in aviation, with U.S. companies facing direct competition from subsidized foreign carriers, is remarkably similar to what happened to U.S. shipbuilders in the 1980s. If these foreign carriers are indeed successful in shifting traffic from American companies to their own, then American aviation will suffer.” That report:


— Silver Line is a mixed blessing for Metro riders. The Washington Post:

— NTSB faults design in experimental spacecraft crash. Pro:

— Documents show hundreds of Metro cars contain asbestos. NBC Washington:

— Man Who Boarded Dallas Jet Without Ticket Was Chasing Girlfriend. Reuters:

— Chinese Ride-Hailing App Launches Designated Driver Service. The Wall Street Journal:

— Senators proposing ‘I will not rest until Metro produces safety results.’ The Washington Post:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 3 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 65 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 471 days.

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