Transportation & Infrastructure

Senate biofuel advocates want a piece of transportation bill
The bill would set aside $1 billion to build charging and fueling stations for electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., say incentives in the bill would only benefit wealthy people in coastal states while leaving out rural America. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A provision in the Senate’s surface transportation bill that would help pay for charging and refilling stations for zero- or low-emissions vehicles should also support more stations for biofuels like ethanol, say two Midwestern senators.

The bill would authorize spending on highways and bridge projects for five years. Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Rounds of South Dakota say incentives in the bill would only benefit wealthy people in coastal states who can afford electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles, while leaving out rural America.

Highway bill upping spending by a quarter gets OK from Senate committee
The current five-year law funding surface transportation programs expires Sept. 30, 2020.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said. “The bill will speed up project delivery will cut Washington red tape, so projects can get done faster, better, cheaper and smarter.” (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 21-0 Tuesday to advance a $287 billion bill that would fund the repair and maintenance of  roads and bridges over five years, expedite permitting processes for major infrastructure projects and make transportation systems more resilient to climate change effects.

The bill, which would increase spending by 27 percent over the current authorization, has the support of President Donald Trump, although he has walked away from broader infrastructure talks.

Amtrak IG details Union Station security deficiencies
Report outlines car driving onto tracks, doors propped open, security guards not checking permits

Union Station has grave security vulnerabilities, according to a report by Amtrak’s inspector general. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Security shortcomings at Amtrak’s second busiest station, Washington Union Station, have allowed an unauthorized car to drive onto the tracks and continue to leave the transportation hub and its patrons at risk, according to a report by Amtrak’s inspector general.

The report found that an entrance to Union Station is vulnerable to trespassers; interior doors are not secure; video surveillance cameras are not operational; and the company’s incident reporting process and radio limitations hamper the Amtrak police force’s response to security incidents at the station that served more than 5 million riders in the 2018 fiscal year.

Road bill would hike spending by 25 percent, speed permits and add climate title
The bill would reauthorize funding for surface transportation programs, starting when current law lapses at end of September 2020

Senate Environment and Public Works chairman John Barrasso, in light of a new bill that aims to increase funding for repair of roads and bridges and that this can 'make the roads safer for every family driving on them. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bill that aims to increase funding by more than 25 percent for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and expedite federal approvals of large infrastructure projects was released Monday by the Senate public works panel, which set a Tuesday markup for the legislation.

The still unnumbered bill by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would reauthorize funding for surface transportation programs for five years, starting when the current law lapses at the end of September 2020.

Boeing 737 Max grounded following international accidents, downs U.S. export numbers
The downturn in deliveries hit the U.S. trade account hard in May, when U.S. exports of civilian aircraft fell $2 billion

Boeing 737 Max airplanes are stored on employee parking lots near Boeing Field, on June 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. After a pair of crashes, the 737 Max has been grounded by the FAA and other aviation agencies since March 13, 2019. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The downturn in Boeing Co. deliveries caused by the grounding of its best-selling airliner in the wake of two international accidents is having a direct impact on U.S. export numbers.

Company officials said Wednesday that they expect the Boeing 737 Max to be grounded at least through October, shaving billions of dollars from revenue, as they reported an after-tax charge of $4.9 billion related to the disruption of aircraft deliveries.

House bill targets Qatar-linked ‘flag of convenience’ Italian airline
Targets ‘flag of convenience’ airlines from undermining labor standards

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., joined a bill targeting low-cost foreign airlines seeking to fly to the United States. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A House bill that would limit access of foreign airlines to the U.S. based on substandard labor conditions for their workers is the latest round in a long — and mostly successful — fight by U.S. airlines and aviation unions to keep low-cost foreign competition out of the U.S. market.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio was joined by other committee leaders, including Republicans, in sponsoring the bill introduced last week and aimed at preventing “flag of convenience” airlines from undermining labor standards.

Oil refiners racing Congress to protect butane loophole
Joint Committee on Taxation now estimates 1-year extension of the alternative fuel credits would cost $7.1 billion

House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, says Congress should leave it to the courts to decide whether refiners should get an alternative fuel tax credit for butane. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For more than a decade, oil refiners didn’t realize what a moneymaker they had in butane — at least for tax purposes.

They do now.

Trump energy plan faces legal blitz over weaker emissions standards
Democratic state AGs join environmental groups saying they’ll sue the federal government over the rule

Emissions spew from a large stack at the coal fired Brandon Shores Power Plant in Baltimore. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Blue states and green groups are gearing up to sue the Trump administration over its new carbon emissions rule finalized Wednesday, which critics say fails to address climate change and the public health risks associated with pollution from the power sector.

The EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy rule rescinds the Obama administration’s ambitious Clean Power Plan and replaces it with less stringent guidelines for states and coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions.

James Inhofe and the art of the bipartisan joke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 78

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and ranking member Jack Reed have a warm relationship that enables them to move bipartisan legislation, something Inhofe discusses in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. James M. Inhofe is one conservative guy, and he is proud of it, trumpeting vote-tracking organizations that peg him as the most right-wing in the chamber. And yet, the Oklahoma Republican has an equally proud history of working with some of his most liberal colleagues on bipartisan legislation. 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, the panel’s ranking Democrat, constructed the highly popular defense authorization bill the last two years. And before that, he worked quite productively with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, the yin to Inhofe’s yang on environmental issues, as leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This, despite Inhofe writing a book that claimed global warming was, as the title attested, “The Greatest Hoax.” And yet, “We prided ourselves in getting things done,” he says. 

Road Ahead: Border supplemental talks could overshadow regular appropriations
Senate to begin NDAA debate while House votes on first fiscal 2020 spending package

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is among the senators hoping for a deal on a supplemental border operations package this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional leaders are hoping this week will produce a breakthrough in negotiations over emergency funding for the migrant crisis at the southern border so they can pass it before the Independence Day recess. 

President Donald Trump has requested Congress pass a $4.5 billion supplemental to help the Department of Homeland Security process the growing number of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Legal pot makes it harder to recruit truck drivers, industry leader says
Companies find applicants withdraw when they learn of hair sample tests for drug use

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse Johnstown, N.Y. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

As the trucking industry struggles with a driver shortage, the president of a major lobby placed part of the blame on wider acceptance by states of marijuana use.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear told lawmakers at a Wednesday hearing that legalization of recreational marijuana by states is making it harder for the industry to find drug-free drivers. Still, low pay and poor working conditions are also hurdles to industry recruitment, according to a union leader.

US-Mexico tariff talks resume Friday as implementation looms Monday
House Ways and Means chairman says if Trump imposes tariffs, he’ll introduce resolution to repeal them

Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he’ll introduce a resolution of disapproval to repeal President Donald Trump’s tariffs against Mexico if they go into effect on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Mexico and the U.S. will continue talks Friday about efforts to curb the flow of Central American migrants to the southern U.S. border, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said in a short statement late Thursday.

Mexico is trying to reach an agreement with the U.S. on migration in order to avoid a series of escalating tariffs President Donald Trump has threatened to impose on all Mexican imports. The first round of tariffs would begin Monday with a 5 percent duty on imports ranging from fruits to machinery.

Trump to Democrats: OK new NAFTA before public works bill
‘Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package,’ the president said

From left, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., President Donald Trump, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., exit the Capitol after the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on March 14, 2019. As Democrats head to the White House to meet with Trump over a massive public works bill, the president told them such legislation should take a back seat to his new NAFTA deal, the USMCA. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On the eve of his second meeting with congressional Democrats about a potential $2 trillion public works bill, President Donald Trump told them such legislation should take a back seat to his trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package,” the president continued.

FAA Nominee Faces Questions Over Boeing at Confirmation Hearing

Stephen Dickson, nominee to be administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Delta Air Lines executive Stephen Dickson told lawmakers he would review the system used by the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the safety of aircraft and over-reliance on automation by pilots if he is confirmed to lead the agency.

“I would never certify an airplane I wouldn’t put my family on,” Dickson told lawmakers at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where he appeared Wednesday for his confirmation hearing.

Trump asks Congress to shift project funds to states he needs to win in 2020
Great Lakes, Everglades restoration initiatives make list as request heads to Hill

President Donald Trump greets supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Monday, Trump asked Congress to shift project funds to swing states he needs to win for a 2020 victory. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Trump’s Monday tweets about plussing up accounts for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Everglades project and a NASA moon mission were codified in an amendment to his fiscal 2020 budget request sent to Congress the same day.

Also requested is nearly $20 million more for the Special Olympics.