By Brianna Gurciullo and Tanya Snyder | 05/17/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Lauren Gardner, Stephanie Beasley, Ashley Gold, Li Zhou and Steven Shepard
DOT GETS ANOTHER ONE IN THE DOOR: The Senate voted 56-42 Tuesday evening to send Jeffrey Rosen to DOT as deputy secretary, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. While he won unanimous support from Republicans, most Democrats voted against his nomination - a development that wasn't surprising given his mostly party-line support in the Senate Commerce Committee and Dems' vocal concerns about his position on issues like transit grant funding.
Bonus: As one door closes, another opens. Derek Kan's paperwork to be formally considered for undersecretary of transportation for policy was finally submitted to the Senate just hours before Rosen's approval. There was a 40-day lag between when the White House announced its intent to nominate Kan for the No. 3 post and when it was made official.
WE'LL BE WATCHING: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will testify today at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on making improvements to infrastructure. It will be the first time Chao has testified since her confirmation hearing, and just days after she said that the administration will - "in about two to three weeks" - roll out a set of "principles" for an infrastructure package.
Buckle up: She can expect some tough questions from Democrats, including the toughest question of all. "We'll have an opportunity to talk about not just their 'principles' but how we're going to pay for this stuff," ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told MT on Tuesday. "I think if things are worth having they're worth paying for, including roads, highways, bridges. So we'll start digging into it tomorrow. I'm glad she's coming."
Inhofe out for 'specifics': Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of both the Senate Commerce and EPW committees, told reporters Tuesday that he hopes Chao gets "a little more in depth" on the Trump administration's plans for infrastructure than she did during her confirmation hearing. "By now, enough time has gone by that she can speak to some specifics as to what projects are going to be pursued, what type of projects," Inhofe said.
Senate gets first dibs? Inhofe also said that he'd like to see the Senate take the lead on an infrastructure package. "Because of our experience in the FAST Act, I would rather get something really specific in the Senate because it turned out that that's what we did anyway," Inhofe said. And he said he's "pretty optimistic" that legislation will come together this year.
IT'S WEDNESDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. We are your MT hosts today, so please send tips, feedback and lyrics to email@example.com or @TSnyderDC and firstname.lastname@example.org or @brigurciullo.
"Well, I started the engine / And I gave it some gas / And Cathy was closing her purse / Well, we hadn't gone far in my beat old car / And I was prepared for the worst / 'Will you still see me tomorrow?' / 'No, I got too much to do' / Well, a question ain't really a question / If you know the answer, too." (h/t John Edwards at Norfolk Southern)
Want to keep up with MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.
WATCH LIVE AT 6 p.m. - An Audit on Tax Reform: Washington's Road Ahead: Join POLITICO for beers and conversation on the legislative possibilities for corporate tax reform, what an eventual tax reform bill might look like, and whether there's room for bipartisan collaboration. Speakers include: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas); Jason Furman, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Maya MacGuineas, CRFB; James Pethokoukis, AEI. Livestream begins at 6 p.m.: here.
ATC PLAN? WHAT ATC PLAN? Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee, led a bipartisan group of 27 senators - including seven Democrats and seven Republicans on the Commerce Committee - in a letter sent Tuesday to committee leaders laying out priorities for the FAA reauthorization. Specifically, Blunt and company asked for Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to help get U.S. aircraft certifications accepted globally, reduce inconsistent interpretations of FAA regulations and cut red tape. What they didn't ask for: a plan to break air traffic control off from the FAA. Blunt has been lukewarm on the matter, as has Thune.
SENATE THUMPS TRUMP ON COAST GUARD: A Coast Guard reauthorization (S. 1129) introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) Tuesday would raise funding for the service to $9.2 billion for fiscal 2018 and $9.6 billion for fiscal 2019. Draft budget documents revealed that the Office of Management and Budget had wanted to slash the Coast Guard's budget by 14 percent. But Director Mick Mulvaney later said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly would "have the discretion as to how he wants to allocate" funding under President Donald Trump's budget proposal.
Policy changes: The Senate bill would allow the Coast Guard to use multiyear funding to procure national security cutters, a new power senators say will "reduce the price of follow-on vessels and give shipyards greater predictability, stabilizing workforces." It would also order "a review of the assets and personnel required to ensure the safety and security of the Arctic," they say.
U.S., EU TO TALK LAPTOP BAN TODAY: A scheduling conflict will prevent Kelly from meeting with European officials today in Brussels, where both sides will discuss the possibility of DHS expanding a directive banning large electronics on U.S.-bound flights. DHS spokesman David Lapan told our Stephanie Beasley and other reporters Tuesday that Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke will represent the agency in Kelly's absence, along with several other top U.S. security officials like TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia. Last week, Kelly discussed emerging aviation threats with European commissioners on a conference call. Ministers from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland sat in on the call as well. Lapan said he was not sure which European officials would attend Wednesday's meeting, but DHS expects the same countries will be represented.
Extension not limited to Europe: Recent reports of DHS mulling a ban on electronics larger than a cell phone in the cabins of flights from European airports raised alarms among European Commission and U.K. officials. One of their primary concerns was that the United States might make a unilateral move without consulting its partners. Lapan said DHS is trying to consult with as many stakeholders as possible before making a final decision, but that it's likely DHS will extend the electronics ban - and not just to European countries. "I wouldn't characterize it as being a lack of confidence in their systems, they in the broadest sense - airports, airlines, countries, etc.," Lapan said. "It's, again, a function of how do we assess the threat environment and what steps can we take to mitigate that to the greatest extent possible."
Intelligence reveal hasn't changed timeline: The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump apparently divulged classified information about ISIS threats related to the use of laptops on airplanes to a Russian ambassador during a closed-door meeting last week, at least part of which Trump seemed to confirm later through tweets. While critics have said that Trump's actions could risk national security, Lapan said DHS is not planning to rush out an update to the electronics ban in response.
What DHS will do: Kelly will continue to engage with stakeholders and gather more information before making a final decision, Lapan said. In particular, DHS is still talking with the FAA and foreign partners about the risks associated with storing lithium-based batteries in cargo holds. Lapan said that the FAA had recorded 152 incidents in which the batteries caused an incident in a plane or airport over the past 25 years. And most of those incidents involved items other than large electronic devices, like e-cigarettes and cell phones, he noted.
** A message from Delta Air Lines: Our daily briefing: At Delta we're constantly innovating to make your travel smoother. We tapped RFID technology to keep your bags in check at all times. Giving you more peace of mind from check-in to baggage claim. Learn more: delta.com/dca **
POLL PREVIEW: This week's POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finds muted support for expanding the proposed ban on large electronics on board U.S.-bound flights from Europe. Told that DHS is considering a proposal that would ban travelers from carrying on laptops and other electronics, 48 percent of voters support the proposal, and 33 percent oppose it. Another 20 percent say they don't know or have no opinion. Republican voters (59 percent support) are more supportive of the proposal than Democrats (44 percent) or independents (42 percent). Full results here.
EUROPEAN AIRLINES STILL DEALING WITH AFTERMATH OF RECENT ATTACKS: Amid discussions of terrorist threats in Europe and other countries, the International Air Transport Association has released the results of a study that found European airlines have not quite rebounded from traffic drops following recent attacks in Western Europe. Air travel in Europe fell 1.6 percent in the wake of the Paris attacks in 2015 and the Brussels airport bombing in 2016, according to the study. IATA said the drop has cost European airlines about $2.5 billion in revenue. However, in contrast to what happened following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this downward turn appears to be temporary, the group said. "This underlines the resilience of air passenger demand to short-lived shock events," the report reads.
TSA RAMPING UP FOR SUMMER TRAVEL SEASON: While senior security officials discuss strategies to deal with developing aviation threats, TSA has the more immediate task of making sure U.S. travelers aren't stuck in long lines at the airports once the summer travel season begins next week. The agency expects to see a record number of passengers flying from the Memorial Day holiday weekend through Labor Day - and is staffing up in preparation. TSA will have 50 more bomb-sniffing dog teams and 2,000 more officers than it did last summer, the agency said in a release Tuesday that also encouraged travelers to enroll in PreCheck and other "trusted traveler" programs to expedite the security screening process.
UBER WINS IN WASHINGTON: Uber may be besieged by reports of a toxic work culture, a trade secrets lawsuit and a Justice Department inquiry , but the company still has allies in Washington to help advance its agenda. Trump on Tuesday signed the Modernizing Government Travel Act after relatively speedy passage by both houses of Congress. The measure puts into law the ability of federal workers to expense ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft - allowing the companies to reap a potentially lucrative market given the massive size of the government workforce.
The influence game: The companies mounted a lobbying push for the bill, and met with a bipartisan collection of tech-friendly lawmakers including Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), all of whom were sponsors. "[T]his is an opportunity to bring the federal government code into modern times," said Niki Christoff, Uber's head of federal affairs. Joseph Okpaku, Lyft's head of government relations, called it an "historic" milestone. "Any time a new industry has be officially recognized and defined in federal law is a fairly momentous occasion," he told our friends at Morning Tech.
By the numbers: Uber, which spent $370,000 in Washington during the first quarter of 2017, worked with lobby shops like Franklin Square Group, The Doerrer Group and Federal Hill Group to advance the bill. Lyft, which spent $110,000 on lobbying in the first quarter, deployed firms like Podesta Group on the issue. Both firms' lobbying spends were up from the first quarter of last year.
MY GIVE UP: Wall Street has lost hope that Congress will overhaul the tax code before the close of the year, POLITICO's Ben White reports. "Executives, lobbyists and Wall Street analysts increasingly believe the administration - distracted by repeated crises while facing a short and crowded legislative calendar - will be unable to deliver on Trump's promise to slash corporate and individual tax rates this year and ignite significantly faster economic growth," Ben writes.
Where the Senate stands: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that a tax overhaul must be "revenue neutral," Pro Financial Services' Colin Wilhelm reports. "We have a $21 trillion debt," McConnell said. "We added an enormous amount of debt during the Obama years, so we'll have to be revenue neutral." McConnell said tax legislation will start in the lower chamber. Still, he is in touch with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan to make sure they are eventually largely in agreement. As for timing, McConnell said Republicans "certainly want to complete it this Congress." The 115th Congress ends in January 2019.
FITCH: STATES TAKE THE LEAD ON INFRASTRUCTURE: In the absence of a federal commitment to fund infrastructure, states will likely continue to try to fill in the gaps on their own, said Fitch Ratings on Tuesday. Already this year, six states have raised gas taxes and fees to fund transportation projects, while five others are considering it. The ratings service also took a dig at inaction from the administration and Congress on infrastructure, saying "federal policy inertia on transportation (and infrastructure in general) has been augmented by recent uncertainty about the current administration's funding plans."
SENATE VOTES FOR A NEW WMATA SAFETY OVERLORD: The Senate passed a joint resolution (S.J. Res. 22) Tuesday approving the creation of a new state safety oversight agency for D.C.'s Metrorail system, Lauren reports for Pros. The governments of D.C., Maryland and Virginia have sought congressional approval for the new body, which the Federal Transit Administration is requiring the jurisdictions to set up for Metro. All transit agencies will have to be under the oversight of a state safety oversight agency by 2019, according to a new FTA rule, but Metro was ordered to act faster because of chronic safety problems.
MT MAILBAG: The Competitive Enterprise Institute and other free-market groups sent a letter to House Transportation Committee leaders Tuesday in support of a bill (H.R. 1265) to raise the Passenger Facility Charge for airports, sponsored by committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
SHIFTING GEARS: Tuesday was Katie Niederee's last day as communications director for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). She is heading to the Senate Finance Committee, where she'll be press secretary.
- "Tesla rebuffed Uber partnership on self-driving cars in 2016." Bloomberg.
- "No problems reported in minute before deadly jet crash." The Associated Press.
- The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists to lawmakers: Don't divorce air traffic control operations from the FAA. Here's the group's statement ahead of a House Transportation Committee hearing on ATC.
- "Showing the faces behind TSA." The Hill.
- "A Union Station ad screen played PornHub videos Monday night." The Washington Post.
- "Hyundai whistle-blower, in rarity for South Korea, prompts recall." The New York Times.
- "Waymo tests hardware to ease passenger fears of driverless cars." Bloomberg.
- "Canada: Passengers can't be removed from overbooked flights." The Associated Press.
- "BlackBerry working with automakers on anti-hack tool: analyst." Reuters.
- "Car makers, despite promises to Donald Trump, set on job cuts." The Wall Street Journal.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 136 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 136 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,233 days.
** A message from Delta Air Lines: Our daily briefing: At Delta we're constantly innovating to make your travel smoother. We tapped into RFID technology to keep your bags in check at all times. Giving you more peace of mind from check-in to baggage claim.
Our pursuit of constantly solving problems doesn't stop there. Turbulence is notoriously difficult to predict. That's why we developed our industry-leading Flight Weather Viewer app. It helps our pilots better spot and avoid unexpected turbulence with real-time graphics of observations and forecasts on the flight deck. Making your journey smoother while also reducing our carbon footprint.
Learn more: delta.com/dca **
To view online:
Please click here and follow the steps to unsubscribe.