By Tanya Snyder and Brianna Gurciullo | 04/20/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Stephanie Beasley, Lauren Gardner and Kathryn A. Wolfe
UNITED HEADING FOR THE T&I HOT SEAT: The House Transportation Committee will, "in the coming days," set up a hearing on airline consumer issues. The hearing, announced Wednesday, is sure to provide an ample forum for airing grievances about a United Airlines customer being pulled off a plane this month. United will testify, Reuters reports.
QUITE A TRIO: As the Trump administration hustles to seize a big policy win, making changes to the tax code remains high on the GOP priority list. While Plan A would be a total tax code overhaul, Plan B would be tax cuts. Both, as Pro Tax's Brian Faler reports, would be heavy lifts for Congress. And any movement on taxes will have implications for a potential infrastructure package. President Donald Trump has suggested that he would even be interested in tacking infrastructure onto a tax bill to help win over Democrats.
Strategery: Stephen Moore, who advised the Trump campaign on tax issues, told Brian that GOP lawmakers should promote legislation that cuts small business and corporate taxes and maybe includes money for infrastructure as a job-making machine. "The big beneficiaries of business tax cuts will be workers," Moore said. "We're cutting taxes for employers so they can create more jobs - that's the argument."
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"I've got a bike / You can ride it if you like / It's got a basket, a bell that rings and / Things to make it look good / I'd give it to you if I could / but I borrowed it." (h/t Mark Howard at the MDOT State Highway Administration)
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MT CONTEST: When will the Trump administration release an infrastructure proposal? Whoever's guess is closest to the actual date will be invited to our office for coffee and donuts with their favorite transportation reporters. (That's us, jerks.) Place your bets: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Infrastructure contest. April 30 will be your last day to send your guess.
POLITICO Event - Rebuilding America: A New Infrastructure Agenda - Join POLITICO for a discussion on the prospects for a major national infrastructure push from the new administration and Congress. Speakers include: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Building America's Future President Marcia Hale, Club for Growth President David McIntosh, and Chamber of Commerce ED Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer. Monday, April 24 - 5:30 p.m. - The Newseum. RSVP: here.
EMIRATES CUTS BACK: The largest Middle Eastern airline announced Wednesday that it will cut back services to the United States, claiming reduced demand on the heels of the Trump administration issuing policies targeting airports and foreign nationals from the Middle East and North Africa. Emirates' service cuts will affect five of 12 domestic destinations beginning in May, the Associated Press reports.
The announcement comes after moves by the administration to impose a visa ban on people traveling from certain countries and to limit the use of larger electronics during nonstop flights from certain foreign airports to the United States. The latter policy affects a slew of Mideast carriers.
But not Etihad: A spokesman for Etihad Airways said it hasn't seen any "significant change in demand" for flights to U.S. markets, and that in fact demand "continues to remain strong ... on all 45 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and its six U.S. gateways of New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas." This summer Etihad said it plans to upgrade its Abu Dhabi-to-New York service to an A380, demonstrating "our ongoing commitment to the US market regardless of recent developments."
World domination ... just like cats: The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies was quick to jump on the Emirates news. "The fact is, market demand has never played a role when the Gulf carriers decide where to fly," group spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said in a statement. "It is well known that the Gulf carriers, including Emirates, lose money on most of their flights to the United States and are propped up by billions of dollars in government cash. Their business model is based on growing their networks without regard to profitability in order to serve their governments' goals to dominate global aviation."
Slice of PI: The partnership has retained Chesapeake Enterprises' Scott Reed to lobby on issues related to Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways. Our friends at POLITICO Influence report: "The coalition spent more than $6 million with four firms - the Dewey Square Group, SKDKnickerbocker, the Messina Group and Beacon Global Strategies - in 2015, according to a previous tax filing, but none of the firms were registered to lobby for the group."
MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE: The Trump administration must keep re-evaluating whether it needs a travel ban and visa restrictions aimed at majority-Muslim countries, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at the U.S. Travel Association's Secure Tourism Summit on Wednesday in New York City. Johnson warned that indefinitely suspending refugees and visa grants could be detrimental to "a lot of innocent people," as well as harmful to international travel and business.
Johnson and BFF Kelly: Johnson said he hasn't been in contact with the new administration regarding any recent security actions, but he is chummy with current DHS head John Kelly. As our Stephanie Beasley reports for Pros, one area where the two friends seem to disagree: messaging. Kelly said Tuesday that "we are under attack from criminals who think their greed justifies raping young girls at knife point" and other heinous acts. Johnson in essence rejected that approach, saying "I do not believe that a message like, 'They're coming to kill us,' is particularly helpful."
PRIVATE EYES, THEY'RE WATCHING YOU: Beware when using non-secure wireless networks overseas - that was the message from Jay Kramer, a supervisory special agent at the FBI's New York cyber division, when he spoke Wednesday at the Secure Tourism Summit. Stephanie reports that Kramer warned U.S. government officials and corporate executives are at an especially high risk of being targeted by foreign intelligence agents. "You should assume that your communications are monitored, depending on the sophistication of the host country," he said.
SMART CITIES COULD END 'SOFT TARGETS': One of the best ways cities can prevent people from becoming so-called soft targets for terrorists, as in the recent truck attack in Stockholm, is to keep them far away from vehicles, former DHS assistant policy secretary David Heyman said Wednesday. During the Secure Tourism Summit, he advised cities to not only redesign public landscaping to separate crowds from traffic, but to also install wireless light sensors and network probes known as "sniffers" at entry and exit points of buildings. He suggested funding for smart city security measures be part of a national infrastructure investment plan. As always, Stephanie has Pros covered.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: General Motors, Boeing and FedEx were among the companies that made donations to Trump's inaugural committee, a Federal Election Commission filing shows. Here are contributions that caught our eye: Boeing, $1 million; FedEx, $502,320; GM, $498,650; Pilot Travel Centers LLC, $300,000; Ford, $250,000; Anheuser-Busch, $250,000; UPS, $250,000; and Florida East Coast Industries (the parent of All Aboard Florida), $25,000.
Plus: Richard LeFrak, who is involved in the White House's infrastructure plans, and his sons together donated $250,000 to the inauguration. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Transportation economic development subcommittee, gave $1,300. Barletta was a member of the Trump transition team's executive committee and a candidate for Transportation and Labor secretary.
START SPREADING THE NEWS: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao got an invitation Wednesday to tour the New York / New Jersey infrastructure that would be affected by the Gateway Program. All four senators from the two states sent a letter to Chao asking her to "visit New York Penn Station and inspect the Hudson River tunnels and the Portal Bridge with us prior to unveiling the Trump administration's $1 trillion infrastructure proposal." Tanya has the full rundown for Pros.
Chao WILL check it out: DOT told MT that Chao plans to "tour a number of the country's nationally significant infrastructure projects, including the Gateway project." The department added that "many" of its agencies are "actively engaged with the Gateway project including being on-site and participating in regular meetings with program officials."
Also of note: DOT said that Chao has chosen James Ray, who holds the recently established title of senior adviser to the secretary for infrastructure, to be DOT's representative on the Gateway Program Development Corporation's board.
Some bipartisan support for Gateway: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) at a Wednesday press conference that largely revolved around Gateway. POLITICO New Jersey's Ryan Hutchins reports that Christie said: "I've already spoken to the president about this. The president is well aware of my point of view on this project, and I absolutely will continue to speak my mind on this - both publicly and privately."
WHAT'S BOXER UP TO? Former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who led Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has taken a job helping a "lobbying effort to build a controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach," California Playbook reports . The project developer "will rely on the two Democrats to help blunt opposition from environmentalists, many of whom have raised objections to desalination for the energy it requires and the sea life it disrupts," our California colleagues report. "Proponents say the project would provide another source of drinking water to a region where fresh water can be difficult to come by."
NLC TO CITIES: START PLANNING FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS: Widespread use of autonomous cars is closer than you think, the National League of Cities says, and the organization is urging municipalities to get planning, including asking citizens how they feel about the coming shift. In a new report, NLC suggests that cities lobby their states on policies related to testing and deployment, plus concerns such as insurance, among other issues.
- "White House eyes harder line on shutdown talks." POLITICO.
- "Lawmakers push for retroactive pay for federal workers during any shutdown." POLITICO Pro.
- "Portland plans to open its roads to autonomous vehicle testing in a bid to get out ahead of the trend." GeekWire.
- "Former U.S. deputy attorney general to be named Volkswagen monitor: source." Reuters.
- "Metro GM proposes 'new business model' and $500 million a year in extra funding to save D.C.-area transit agency." The Washington Post.
- "Tesla settles suit against ex-Autopilot head and his startup." Bloomberg.
- "World's busiest airport in 2016? It's Atlanta, again." USA Today.
- "Tech companies file amicus brief to throw out travel ban." POLITICO Pro.
- "Federal lawmakers weigh into BWI noise dispute." The Baltimore Sun.
- "Hyperloop One taps the brakes on testing." The Wall Street Journal.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 8 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 163 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,260 days.
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