By Brianna Gurciullo and Tanya Snyder | 05/19/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Stephanie Beasley, Lauren Gardner and Kathryn A. Wolfe
SCOOP: KELLY TO BRIEF HOUSE LAWMAKERS TODAY: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will brief House lawmakers today on possibly expanding its electronics ban to airports in Europe and beyond, our Stephanie Beasley scooped for Pros. The ban on large electronics currently affects some airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Passengers on U.S.-bound flights from those hubs can't have electronics larger than a cell phone with them in an aircraft cabin. Kelly briefed senators on emerging threats to aviation security while the House was out last week.
'A lot of options on the table': House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Steph about the planned House briefing. He said he has already been informed about the threat behind the ban. "It's threat-based and of course there are a lot of options on the table for the secretary depending on the nature of the threat," he told Steph. European officials are set to meet with DHS next week here in Washington to talk about any potential expansion of the ban - and some lawmakers are planning to join them.
TRUMP BUDGET SAID TO CALL FOR $200 BILLION IN INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDS: Details are starting to leak out on the fiscal-year 2018 budget proposal the White House is expected to release on Tuesday. Citing an OMB official, Bloomberg confirmed last night that the document will call for $200 billion in federal infrastructure spending over a decade in the hope of spurring $800 billion in additional investment from private, state and local sources. (Morning Transportation readers will recall that those are the numbers that officials such as DOT Secretary Elaine Chao have been talking about when discussing the president's upcoming "vision" for his $1 trillion infrastructure package.) The White House may propose using federal grants and loans as an incentive for investment, the story said. The story didn't say how the White House planned to offset the $200 billion; as we've reported, Chao said this week that OMB was still working on that.
Meanwhile the Ways and Means Committee's top Democrat called on fellow tax writers Thursday to mull a one-time tax on corporate earnings overseas to help fund infrastructure. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said at the committee's first 2017 hearing on a tax code overhaul that he and his colleagues "should think about using the revenue from a deemed repatriation tax to pay for infrastructure or other productive purposes." Lawmakers like Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) have pushed legislation along the lines of what Neal described, but it's significant that a top tax writer brought it up at a high-profile hearing. Tanya has more for Pros.
HAPPY FRIDAY: 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.
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HOW DETROIT IS BEATING ITS BLIGHT: Land banks are the Swiss Army knives of urban reclamation efforts, wielding an array of powers to make abandoned, tax-foreclosed properties useful again. In the latest installment of POLITICO Magazine's "What Works" series, we visit the city of Detroit, which went from a robust city of 1.8 million in 1950 to barely a third of that size today. Learn how Mayor Mike Duggan's administration created the largest land bank in the U.S., taking control of 98,000 properties to help his city rebound from bankruptcy and an unprecedented level of decline. Read more.
PUPS PATROL HOUSE HEARING: Since it's Friday, we'll let MT go to the dogs for a moment. The dogs had their day at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on "critical canine contributions" on Thursday. Officers from TSA and Customs and Border Protection treated lawmakers to a few doggie demos in which they showed off their prowess for sniffing out strange items in bags. After that, lawmakers got to the real question: Are dogs superior to technology when it comes to detecting explosives? Republican Rep. Clay Higgins , a former Louisiana police officer, said he'd take a dog over a machine any day. And Peter Jaquez, U.S. Border Patrol's acting deputy chief of law enforcement operations and specialty programs, said that while he is biased toward canines, a mix of dogs, technology and manpower is most effective.
COAST GUARD NEEDS MORE BODIES, SHIPS: The Coast Guard will need a funding boost for fiscal 2018 so it can keep pace with new challenges like a rise in refugees and a potential conflict with North Korea, Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told the House Appropriations homeland security panel Thursday. As Steph reports for Pros, Zukunft said the service needs a 5 percent bump in its operations and maintenance budget and $2 billion for acquisitions. He also said the Coast Guard would like to add 5,000 more active duty officers to its forces and increase the number of patrol ships available.
The love boat: Subcommittee Chairman John Carter (R-Texas) and ranking member Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) said during Thursday's hearing that they were especially interested in learning details about the Coast Guard's personnel and operations needs as they move forward with the fiscal 2018 budget process. "You guys are kind of the darling of our world," Carter gushed after saying he was confident that the service would continue to perform at the highest level even in a fiscally-constrained environment.
USCG's lobbyist-in-chief: Carter also noted that the service may have found its best lobbyist in President Donald Trump. During the Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony Wednesday, Trump said the administration "will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years." The White House previously floated the idea of reducing funding for the Coast Guard overall to help pay for increased security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Given his recent praise, it will be interesting to see whether Trump's Coast Guard boosterism is reflected in the full White House budget proposal expected next week.
HUNTER PITCHES TRUMP: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has sent a letter to Trump arguing that there should be a block buy of icebreakers, which "will translate into savings of hundreds of millions of dollars and also accelerate construction." Hunter, the chairman of the House Transportation subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Coast Guard, said the service's next reauthorization will include language making it clear that the Coast Guard can purchase the ships in a block. Pro Defense's Jacqueline Klimas has more.
FULL STEAM AHEAD: Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Commerce Committee moved two bills Thursday - one to reauthorize the Coast Guard (S. 1096) and another to reauthorize MARAD (S. 1129). Both were approved by voice vote, after some Democrats raised concerns about the inclusion of a vessel discharge bill within the Coast Guard measure. Pros get more details from our Kathryn A. Wolfe.
CHAO IN ATLANTA: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was in Atlanta on Thursday to celebrate the reopening of an I-85 bridge just seven weeks after it collapsed in a fire. The project was completed more than a month ahead of schedule, thanks in part to DOT's "quick-release" of $10 million in emergency funds. Here's the pic to prove it.
MAKING ROADS AND BRIDGES GREAT AGAIN: Vice President Mike Pence took a breather from the Russia-gate whirlwind Thursday to address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Invest in America! Summit. "In case you hadn't noticed, the American people elected a builder to be president of the United States," he said, and Trump "is going to rebuild the infrastructure of America." Pence promised that the administration would make "historic investments in our infrastructure" to make sure the nation has "the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports, and the best future possible."
** 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 **
BOSTIAN ARRAIGNED: Brandon Bostian, the engineer at the controls in the 2015 Amtrak derailment outside Philadelphia, was arraigned after he handed himself over to law enforcement on Thursday, The Associated Press reports. Bostian has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes.
RE-OPEN NAFTA - DO WE HAFTA? The auto industry is hoping for the best out of Trump's re-opening of NAFTA negotiations. "NAFTA has helped to boost the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry sector," said American Automotive Policy Council President Matt Blunt in a statement. He held out hope, however, that a re-negotiation could result in more auto exports, strong language against currency manipulation and "the global acceptance of vehicles built to U.S. auto safety standards." John Bozzella, the president and CEO of Global Automakers, said that though NAFTA "has been a success," carmakers "recognize the need to modernize this agreement to address technological changes to better meet new market demands."
The labor side: The Teamsters, meanwhile, weren't so sunny on the old NAFTA, slamming cross-border long-haul trucking language "that jeopardizes highway safety and threatens the environment" and other provisions they'd like to see stripped out in any new agreement.
NO, I CAN'T GO FOR THAT: If the White House is thinking about appointing Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to a position within DHS, it should think again, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Thursday. As Steph reports, DHS has yet to confirm whether Clarke has been selected for assistant secretary at the agency's Office of Partnership and Engagement, despite Clarke saying just that. Thompson, who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said "it is critical that Clarke not serve in this administration" given recent revelations about the mistreatment of inmates in the Milwaukee County Jail that he oversees. Terrill Thomas reportedly died in the jail last year after guards turned off the water in his cell.
YOU DIDN'T MISS ANYTHING: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testified before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, but if you were expecting him to talk about infrastructure, you likely came away disappointed. (We sure did.) Worth noting: No senators seemed interested in asking about it either.
MT MAILBAG: A coalition of free market groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the Competitive Enterprise Institute sent an open letter to lawmakers this week urging them to allow an "open, competitive bidding process" in any infrastructure package. The missive is a nod toward Trump's embrace of "Buy America" policies, which Congress often includes in legislation but for which waivers are often granted.
LOBBYING UPDATE: Bose Public Affairs Group registered to lobby for Ford on manufacturing, tax, health and trade issues. ... Elizabeth Spivey, former director of outreach for the House Transportation Committee, and Christopher Bertram, former staff director of the committee, are lobbying for OneJet on the Small Community Air Service Development Program.
ON THE 16TH SURGE OF SAFETRACK WMATA GAVE TO ME: All men must die, and all maintenance projects must end, eventually. Metrorail's last SafeTrack surge will start June 17 and wrap up June 25, drawing to a close a system-wide project that will have gone on for over a year. Throughout Surge No. 16, the Red Line will be out of service from the Shady Grove to the Twinbrook stops, and Metro will shut down the Shady Grove and Rockville stations. The Twinbrook station will be open.
ICYMI FROM PRO TRANSPORTATION: The Commerce Department is launching investigations into aircraft imports from Canada. ... The controversies swirling around Trump are putting Republican policy plans at risk. ... But House Speaker Paul Ryan says he's confident a tax overhaul will get done by the end of the year. ... DOT plans to advance a regulation on highway performance measures, but without the part on gauging greenhouse gas emissions. ... The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International wants the FAA to be "appropriately funded."
- "Driver's rampage in Times Square renews focus on pedestrian safety." The Wall Street Journal.
- "Metro-North train derails in Westchester, 13 injured." NBC 4 New York.
- "Why Delta decided to stop being the mean airline." Bloomberg.
- "Toyota, 3 other automakers settle suit over Takata air bags." The Associated Press.
- "Airlines tap trove of flight data to give a 'virtually instant' review of pilots' skills." The Wall Street Journal.
- "Uber launches Uber Freight, its app for long-haul trucking jobs." The Verge.
- "Uber is fighting to push Waymo's self-driving lawsuit out of the public eye." BuzzFeed News.
- "Fiat Chrysler, in settlement talks with U.S., is under more pressure." The New York Times.
- "Why Amazon's delivery-drone team is obsessed with geese." Bloomberg.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 134 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 134 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,231 days.
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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 **
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