Transportation & Infrastructure

Democrats May Sink FAA Extension, Hurricane Tax Relief Package
Minority support needed to pass measure under fast track procedure

Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., oppose a GOP package to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for six months and provide tax relief for hurricane victims. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for six months and provide tax relief to victims of recent hurricanes could fail on the House floor Monday evening amid Democratic opposition. 

The minority party’s support is needed to pass the measure under a fast-track procedure known as suspension of the rules. Two-thirds support is required for passage on the suspension calendar, meaning at least 50 Democrats would need to vote “yes” if all 240 Republicans support the legislation. 

Airlines Cap Ticket Prices for Irma Evacuees After Criticism, Including From the Senate
Blumenthal and Markey had asked Chao for an investigation

Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao was asked to investigate airline ticket prices ahead of Hurricane Irma (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Airlines are responding to criticism, including from Senate Democrats, about spikes in ticket prices ahead of Hurricane Irma, with $99 caps on flights from Miami.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao requested a Department of Transportation probe of price hikes.

Podcast: Congress Has Air Traffic Control and Passenger Woes on its Radar
The Week Ahead, Episode 61

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz testifies before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing in the Rayburn Building May 2, 2017. United president Scott Kirby appears at right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are debating legislation that would put air traffic control into private hands, provide protections to airline passengers and regulate drones, says CQ's transportation reporter Jacob Fischler. He and transportation editor Randy Walerius explain what's at stake.

Show Notes:

Trump Wants More Interstate Tolling, But Lawmakers Skeptical
Plan would give states more options

The Trump administration suggested in a fact sheet last week the idea of reducing restrictions on tolling on interstate highways. Pictured: I-278 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images File Photo)

President Donald Trump fleshed out his proposal last week to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure by listing tolling on interstate highways as one way to raise funds, but his idea is encountering reluctance in Congress.

Several key lawmakers said they were receptive to the idea, but cited obstacles to moving forward.

Lawmakers’ Safety Exemption for Old Steamboat Alarms Coast Guard
Fire risk to passengers high, according to document

A bill exempting the Delta Queen steamboat from a fire safety law has come under strong criticism. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP file photo)

The Senate voted overwhelmingly last month to permit a 90-year-old stern-wheel steamboat named the Delta Queen to travel the Mississippi River as an overnight cruise ship for up to 174 passengers.

Relaunching the now-idle boat would rekindle a connection to the region’s history and inject millions of tourist dollars and hundreds of jobs into states up and down the river, supporters of the measure said.

Panel Rebukes United, Other Airlines Over Passenger Treatment
‘Something is clearly broken’

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz testifies before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing in the Rayburn Building May 2, 2017. United president Scott Kirby appears at right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster warned the CEO of United Airlines and other industry executives Tuesday that a hearing into their customers’ experiences wouldn’t be pleasant.

Panel members from both parties followed through, blasting United CEO Oscar Munoz and other representatives of American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The hearing came after the release of video showing a passenger being forcibly removed from a United flight in early April so the airline could make room for its employees to fly.

Podcast: The Long Road Ahead to Fixing America’s Infrastructure
The Week Ahead, Episode 50

President Donald Trump wants to invest $1 trillion into the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and airports, as well as into drinking water, electric and telecommunications systems, says CQ Roll Call’s transportation reporter Jacob Fischler. But the hurdle to that ambitious agenda is finding the money. Fischler and transportation editor Randy Walerius discuss what role Congress could play in the plan.

Airline Food Workers Protest Low Wages Amid ‘Historic’ Profits
While airline employees have seen raises, those who cater airline meals have not

Airline catering workers in the Washington, D.C., area rallied for higher wages on Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy Meghan Cohorst, UNITE HERE)

United isn’t the only airline facing public criticism this week — airline food workers, who prepare meals served on flights, are protesting their low wages while they say the airlines are enjoying record profits.

More than 100 workers for airline catering companies marched from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Wednesday to protest their wages in the midst of what organizers with the labor union UNITE HERE described as “historic profits” for airlines and “well-deserved gains” for other airport and airline workers.

Senator Plots Bill to Prevent a Repeat of United Airlines Episode
Van Hollen seeks support for ‘Customers Not Cargo’ Act

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen says his draft bill aims to avoid a repeat of the United Airlines incident at Chicago O’Hare on Sunday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen is drafting legislation to make the forcible removal of passengers from commercial airlines illegal.

The Maryland Democrat circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday, seeking co-sponsors for what he is billing as the “Customers Not Cargo Act.”

Opinion: You May Rush to Judgment on United Incident — But Don't Rush to Regulate
Market forces may have more impact than legislation

United Airlines passenger David Dao was dragged from flight to make room for airline employees. (Screenshots)

Watching videos of a man bloodied and limp being dragged from an airline seat is disconcerting irrespective of your relative weighting of common sense and the enforceability of contracts. No matter what the legal entitlements of the passenger and United Airlines might be, few will deny that what occurred on Monday’s United flight from Chicago to Louisville was outrageous and should never have occurred,.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is already calling for hearings on the event in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In prior airline situations where outrageous and disconcerting events have occurred, legislators and regulators have rushed to respond to public opinion, and those reactions have been ill-conceived or at the very least burdened with unintended consequences, which, if known, might have resulted in a different response.

D.C. Area Lawmakers to Colleagues: Leave Our Airport Alone
Warn against easing restrictions on long-haul flights into Reagan National Airport

Lawmakers from the D.C. area are concerned about sending more air traffic to Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers from in and around Washington are warning their congressional colleagues against changing local airport rules in a bid to make it easier for them to get back to their home states.

A group of 15 members of Congress, led by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, along with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., do not want to see any easing of restrictions on long-haul flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — whose Arlington, Virginia, location is significantly closer to the Capitol building than either of the other major airports in the area.

Senate Preparing to Revive the Delta Queen
Wooden vessel needs an exemption, and the Senate's now set a vote

The Delta Queen riverboat, which has been in dry dock for years, awaits congressional approval for overnight travel on the nation's inland waterways . (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

Before the week’s headline Supreme Court debate, senators are poised to get the Delta Queen back cruising America’s waterways.

The legendary riverboat has been barred from carrying overnight passengers since an exemption to the 1966 Safety of Life at Sea Act for the largely wooden vessel lapsed back in 2008.

Trump Advisers’ Infrastructure Plan Has Big Risks
Could reward investors in projects

President Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross worked on Trump's proposal for infrastructure (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo).

An infrastructure plan put together by two advisers of President Donald Trump could carry potential risks, economists and transportation experts say.

The plan is based on a paper by Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, who is director of the National Trade Council, and Wilbur Ross, Trump's pick for Commerce Secretary that was set before the election.

Chao Drives Toward Quick Confirmation
Transportation designee wins bipartisan praise at Commerce Committee

Transportation Secretary-designee Elaine Chao testifies as her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, looks on during her Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s most important title in the Senate wasn’t majority leader. It was husband.

“I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country’s infrastructure,” the Kentucky Republican quipped at the confirmation hearing for his spouse, Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine L. Chao. The line was borrowed from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, whose wife, Elizabeth, once held the same Cabinet post.

Lawmakers Push to Include Digital in Infrastructure Plans
We need firewalls, not physical walls, says Rep. Ted Lieu

California Rep. Ted Lieu said the country is better protected by firewalls than the physical wall President-elect Donald Trump has proposed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As rebuilding the country’s infrastructure looks to be an area President-elect Donald Trump and Democrats can agree on, lawmakers from both parties are trying to make sure the conversation includes digital infrastructure. 

California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu said digital infrastructure is as vital to the country as roads and bridges.