By Tanya Snyder | 12/05/2017 10:00 AM EDT

With help from Brianna Gurciullo

NIELSEN MOVES ALONG: The Senate Monday evening cleared a procedural hurdle to bring debate to a close on the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. The vote was 59-33, with all Republicans, 10 Democrats and Independent Angus King of Maine voting in favor. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Nielsen "a qualified candidate with the talent and experience to succeed," saying that her previous work with the department "makes her an ideal candidate to be ready to lead the agency on day one."

Her résumé: Nielsen would be the first DHS secretary to have prior experience in the agency. She started and ran TSA's offices of legislative policy and government affairs, and later served as DHS Secretary John Kelly's deputy (and moved over to the White House when he did). Some conservatives have targeted her for taking a softer line on immigration than President Donald Trump, and some Democrats have expressed concern about her role in FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina, but no roadblocks are expected on her path to confirmation.

DOT PUTS THE BRAKES ON ECP MANDATE: DOT Monday rescinded the mandate for trains carrying crude oil and ethanol to be equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, a rule that the freight rail industry has fought against since its inception. The 2014 FAST Act ordered a scientific evaluation of ECP brake performance in emergencies, with a requirement for a final decision on the rule's fate by Monday - the two-year anniversary of the law's passage.

Noped: The scientific study was inconclusive, and a GAO study found that DOT didn't have enough data to make a call. But a DOT analysis in October found that the costs outweighed the benefits of an ECP mandate. Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) praised the repeal decision. "Repealing this rule puts sound science and careful study ... over flawed guesswork," he said in a statement.

IT'S TUESDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ships. Tanya is in the MT cockpit. Send tips, feedback and song lyrics to tsnyder@politico.com or @TSnyderDC.

"Everywhere with helicopter / hard to follow when I'm slow / everywhere with helicopter / sending off where lightning goes."

LISTEN HERE: Follow MT's playlist on Spotify. What better way to start your day than with songs (picked by us and readers) about lonely highways and south-bound trains?

BROWN SENTENCED: Former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), the long-time top Democrat on the House Transportation subcommittee in charge of rail, was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison for her role in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving a sham scholarship charity. Brown's longtime chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and the founder of the fraudulent charity, Carla Wiley, was sentenced to 21 months. "Corrine Brown abused her position as a member of Congress by defrauding charitable donors who wanted to help underprivileged young men and women receive a quality education," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. "Instead of helping those deserving students, Brown used the contributions she solicited to finance a personal slush fund to support her lavish lifestyle." Brown served 12 terms in Congress. Her top campaign donors were railroads and cruise lines.

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DUBIOUS HONORS: Transportation has overtaken power plants as the largest source of pollution in the United States for the first time in 40 years, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and reported by Bloomberg. Important note: It's not that transportation is getting dirtier, it's that electricity generation is getting cleaner.

LET'S MAKE A FRESH START: After getting stood up by Democratic leaders last week, President Donald Trump will get his meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday. The three hope to hash out an agreement on government spending beyond Friday's deadline to avoid a government shutdown. "That year-end deal is also likely to include other long-stalled legislative priorities, including addressing funding lapses for the Children's Health Insurance Program and the National Flood Insurance Program," Jennifer Scholtes and Sarah Ferris report.

LET ME FLY FREE! The Association of American Railroads thinks the FAA should let railroads use small drones at night, past line of sight and over people, all of which require a waiver now to do. That's what the group wrote in comments submitted late last week in relation to President Donald Trump's order for agencies to take a look at their current regulations and put forward which rules could be repealed or tweaked. Drones "can be used to investigate accident scenes without exposing emergency responders and railroad personnel to dangerous conditions," the group wrote. Brianna breaks down AAR's other asks here.

MENENDEZ GETS PRIMARY CHALLENGER: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), whose corruption trial ended in a jury deadlock last month, now faces a new battle: a potential primary challenge in the form of Democratic campaigner Michael Starr Hopkins. Hopkins announced in an op-ed piece for The Hill that he is "exploring" a bid against Menendez, though his website already says "Michael Starr Hopkins for United States Senate." Menendez's approval rating tanked during the trial, and 51 percent of New Jersey voters think he does not deserve to be reelected. Hopkins wrote that New Jerseyans deserve "the chance to vote for someone who hasn't been tainted by the culture of corruption in Trenton and Washington." Matt Friedman of POLITICO New Jersey has the full story.

RIDE ON: PeopleforBikes is rallying its members against the Senate tax bill's elimination of the $20-per-month bicycle commuter benefit. "This modest reimbursement program has helped bike commuting grow by more than 50 percent nationwide during the last decade," the advocacy group said in an action alert.

ASCE WILL GIVE THIS REPORT A D-: In a new report , the RAND Corporation suggests "not everything is broken" with U.S. water and transportation infrastructure - a statement that will no doubt raise eyebrows in some camps. Researchers found that a 2.5 percent to 3 percent annual spending increase at the local, state, and federal level would essentially eliminate existing transportation and water infrastructure maintenance backlogs by 2030. Still, they said the problem isn't so much money as policy. Feds should stop trying to sprinkle transportation funds evenly throughout the country "without a sense of national purpose or priority," said lead author Debra Knopman. Rather, they should focus on "maintaining and modernizing vital federal infrastructure and on targeting nationally significant projects that are beyond the capacity of individual states and cities."

SHIFTING GEARS: Alison McAfee is the new new managing director of communications at Airlines for America. She worked in the comms shop of JetBlue from 2006 and 2013 and since then at Hawaiian Airlines. Harris Corporation chairman, president and CEO William Brown has been appointed the Vice Chairman of Aerospace Industries Association's Board of Governors for 2018.

THE AUTOBAHN:

- "How can the DOT deregulate? Almost 3,000 weighed in last week." Supply Chain Dive.

- "VW unveils new electric van to go into production next year for its ride-sharing service." Electrek.

- "Travelers asked to postpone Christmas trips to Bali." Smarter Travel.

- "3 obstacles ahead for autonomous farm equipment." Agriculture.com.

- "Supreme Court lets Trump fully impose latest travel ban." POLITICO.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 4 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 117 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,031 days.

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