Transportation News for August 5, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 5, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/5/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle

THUNE PREDICTS FAA PUNT INTO 2016: When House T&I leaders backtracked last month on their plan to introduce an FAA overhaul, there was no denying that — barring a legislative miracle — another short-term reauthorization would be needed before authority expires next month. And now the Capitol’s realists are admitting this probably won’t be a baby punt either.
Hard deadline: Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune told our Heather Caygle on Tuesday that while “we’ll probably end up having some sort of short-term extension,” he’d like to have “a sort of hard deadline out there that pushes us to get this done.” And that new cutoff could be sometime early next year, the chairman said. “If you look at the clock management and how you’re going to move it on the floor, that’s going to be the challenge.”

A good look: Heather reports that Thune and T&I Chairman Bill Shuster met last week, as talks continue over whether to pluck air traffic control duties from the FAA. “There’s clearly a need to do something different than what we’re doing today,” Thune said. “So the question is, is the model that Shuster and some others have advanced make sense? We’re giving it a good look.”

CHAIRMAN TO CHAIRMAN, LET’S CHAT: The highway bill battle over the past month caused some strain between the House and Senate as leaders in both chambers worked publicly and behind the scenes to push their very different visions. House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster slammed the Senate bill as catering too much to Democratic priorities, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the upper chamber’s multiyear plan would never fly in the House. Across the Capitol, some Senate Democrats weren’t shy about questioning why Shuster and other House lawmakers had only pushed short-term extensions until this point and didn’t have their own long-term bill ready to go. But it seems all that bickering is already forgotten, at least if you ask Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe.

“We talked at length on Friday,” Inhofe told Heather on Tuesday about his chat with Shuster last week. “Some negative things were said over there on the House side. He wanted to reassure me, and I wanted to reassure him, that we all want the same thing — a long-term bill.”

So who’s to blame for House-Senate strife? The outspoken Okie has his own idea about who stirred the pot: “The media’s done a pretty good job of trying to divide one side against the other. But we want the same thing,” Inhofe said. “And two people who work very well together are going to be Bill Shuster and me. And I remember so well doing the same thing with his father, Bud Shuster.”

What’s next: MT likes to be glass half-full. But on a realistic note, that congressional bonhomie might not last when it comes time for the House and Senate to go to conference and hammer out a multiyear bill. For now, though, it’s all puppies and rainbows if you ask Inhofe: “We’re going to work together, we’re all on the same page,” he said. “They are, right now, going through our bill, looking to see what kind of a product they want to come up with. There most likely will be a conference, and we’ll have a long-term bill.”

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.

“I’ve never considered myself a thief, but GM wouldn’t miss just one little piece.”

THE COMMITTEE TO END ALL DEADLOCK: Harkening back to the days when it was cool for lawmakers to support transportation funding, Brookings policy gurus Josh Gotbaum and Alice M. Rivlin write for POLITICO about how that consensus has turned to gridlock. But the two argue that there may be a way out of the perpetual impasse. Headlining The Agenda, Gotbaum and Rivlin propose the creation of a special joint committee on infrastructure: “In the past, special committees were created, not just for budget issues, but also to handle homeland security and energy. They were created by the Congressional leadership to manage issues that were urgent, but crossed enough jurisdictional lines to require more than the traditional sequential committee process. … Many believe that Congress is too divided to make important decisions. We think just the opposite — that important and urgent national needs like transportation funding are the very things that will bring Congress together.” Read up:

NO MORE ANIMAL TROPHIES BY AIR, SENATORS SAY: Trying to protect other animals from the fate of Cecil the lion, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker fired off a letter this week to major airline associations, asking them to commit that their member carriers won’t be transporting any more animal trophies. “Americans who engage in trophy hunting do so because they are confident that they will be able to transport their trophies back to the United States with ease, including by airline,” the senators wrote in a letter to Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association. “Passenger and freight airlines that permit shipment of animal trophies aid and abet trophy hunting and these abhorrent acts of barbarism.” Delta announced this week that it would stop the practice, and several other U.S. airlines have made similar commitments. But airlines that fly to the United States must be unified on this front, the senators said. The letter:

UPS, not so much: A UPS spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Tuesday that, while airlines might be changing their rules, the shipping company isn’t going to let public opinion influence its policies. “There are many items shipped in international commerce that may spark controversy,” UPS public relations director Susan Rosenberg wrote in an e-mail to the Post. “The views on what is appropriate for shipment are as varied as the audiences that hold these views.” More:

LAB ANALYSIS BEGINS ON POSSIBLE MH370 FLAPERON: The mystery of the flaperon found on the French island of Réunion could be solved by week’s end, when investigators either rule it out as a piece of the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared last year or confirm it as the investigation’s biggest breakthrough. CNN reports ( that expert analysis of the Boeing 777 wing component is supposed to begin today in a specialized lab in southwestern France and that a definitive answer could come this week. If the flaperon is confirmed to be a part of the missing plane, its condition and location will tell a lot about how and where MH370 could have gone down, New York Magazine reports:

TWEET OF THE WEEK: Detroit News DC Bureau Chief David Shepardson tweets about how POTUS is “very excited” about electronic vehicle batteries:

LYFT TO LOBBY ON RANGE OF ISSUES: POLITICO Influence reports ( that Lyft has registered to lobby on “transportation and environmental issues in the 2015 highway reauthorization bill; shared economy issues including labor, consumer safety, privacy, technology; commuter tax benefits,” according to Senate lobbying disclosures. Lauren Belive, federal government relations manager for the company, is listed as the lobbyist on the disclosure. Lyft also has Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC and Podesta Group on retainer.


— At least 24 killed, 300 rescued after trains derail in India. AP:

— Airbus files patent for a plane that flies at more than four times the speed of sound. The Verge:

— A hungry snake was eating a bird at a Metro station. The Washington Post:

— Tesla executive presses automakers on electrification. The Wall Street Journal:

— Radar detectors cutting-edge enough to match your supercar. Bloomberg Business:

— Four Uber drivers cited at LAX have serious criminal records. LA Times:

— Appeals court reinstates trucker lawsuit over NY road tolls. AP:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 86 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 58 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 464 days.