Transportation & Infrastructure

Coast Guard Bill Returns ‘Delta Queen’ Steamboat to Spotlight
Senate reauthorization measure would exempt boat from safety regulations

A provision in the Senate’s Coast Guard authorization bill would allow the Delta Queen, a wooden steamboat, to operate as an overnight cruise ship despite safety concerns. (Al Behrman/AP file photo)

Senate votes this week will help determine whether a 91-year-old wooden steamboat can be revived as an overnight river cruise ship — even though the Department of Homeland Security calls that prospect an “unacceptable” fire risk.

A provision buried deep in a recently modified version of the Senate’s Coast Guard authorization bill would exempt the Delta Queen paddle wheel boat from federal law and Coast Guard regulations that require vessels with overnight accommodations for 50 or more passengers to be made of fireproof materials. The boat’s owner envisions the vessel as a Mississippi River cruise vessel for up to 174 passengers.

With an Ambitious Policy Agenda, Pelosi is Poised to Lead the House Again
Calls increased from Democratic incumbents and candidates asking for new generation of leaders

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference in the Capitol on Nov. 7, the day after Democrats had retaken control of the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Basking in House Democrats’ midterm election wins, Nancy Pelosi is focused on the planks of the Democratic campaign platform that will become the new majority’s agenda: health care, infrastructure and cleaning up corruption in Washington.

But the California Democrat cannot escape questions about another theme that emerged on the campaign trail — opposition to her leadership.

Trump: ‘I Don't Care’ if House Democrats Release My Tax Returns
President also downplays difficulty of split government

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington. President Donald Trump says he wouldn’t care if House Democrats release his tax returns. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Trump claimed Monday he is not concerned about House Democrats obtaining and releasing his tax returns if they win the House majority in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“I don’t care,” he told reporters as he arrived in Indiana for a campaign rally.

Republicans Poised to Stand by Trump, Win or Lose
No matter the outcome in November, those who have backed Trump will continue to do so

No matter what happens in the midterms, most Republicans will continue to stand behind their man for the second half of his term, most in the party predict. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

In 2006, the reckoning finally came for Republicans. After 12 years in power in the House, scandal after scandal brought the party down — Tom DeLay, the powerful majority whip from Texas, quit after being indicted, and Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned following a scandal involving underage congressional pages. The Iraq War was looking lost. And the president was a drag on everyone. Republicans lost 30 seats in the House, six in the Senate.

Almost immediately after the election, Republicans started eating their own.

Senate Clears Big Aviation, Opioid Legislation Under Shadow of Brett Kavanaugh and FBI
Pending water resources deal could be last major legislative item before Election Day

A reauthorization of the FAA will be among the final pieces of big-ticket legislation to pass before Election Day. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate’s never-ending Supreme Court drama continued to overshadow a pair of bipartisan legislative wins — with at least one more expected before Election Day.

As senators awaited a supplemental report from the FBI about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, they cleared for President Donald Trump a big bipartisan bundle of bills to combat the opioid scourge and a long-awaited reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

7 Ways Congress Might Make Your Next Airline Flight a Little Less Terrible
Full FAA reauthorization is the next legislation before the Senate

The Senate is debating a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration this week, and on the line might be efforts to make air travel better for passengers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate is getting ready to send to President Donald Trump a bipartisan reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that might make the commercial flying experience just a little less awful.

“Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats,” Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said when the deal was announced.

Senate GOP Effort to Rebuke Trump on Trade Has Died a Quiet Death
Effort to assert tariff authority not included in FAA reauthorization bill

Sen. Bob Corker has little hope for his trade legislation. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bob Corker appears resigned to the fact that the Senate won’t be acting to rebut President Donald Trump on trade policy before voters go to the polls in November.

The Tennessee Republican had previously talked up the possibility of attaching legislation drafted with Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey to a must-pass reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA Passage Likely, But Timing Unclear in Senate as Deadline Looms
The current Federal Aviation Administration authorization ends on Sunday

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told CQ that weekend work is possible if Senate can't get to FAA bill by Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even after lawmakers in both chambers took a major step toward a long-term Federal Aviation Administration authorization over the weekend, the path to enactment before a Sunday deadline remains uncertain as several other important votes jockey for floor time in the Senate.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on the five-year bill, which members of the House and Senate from both parties agreed to early Saturday morning, but the Senate schedule is less certain.

Road Ahead: McConnell and Kavanaugh Set the Tone for the Week
Funding, authorization deadlines must work around Supreme Court chaos

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., exits the senators-only elevator as he arrives in the Capitol on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The dissonance in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech opening the Senate floor Monday set the tone for the week on Capitol Hill.

On the one hand, Republicans and Democrats will be at each other’s throats over how they’re handling the growing number of sexual assault allegations directed at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. On the other hand, they need to reach out for each other’s hands to ensure they get deals to fund the government past the end of the Sept. 30 fiscal year and meet other important deadlines. 

Republicans Push Back Against States Seen as Too Pro-Regulation
GOP favors independence by state governments unless they don’t like a state’s decision

Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming and ranking Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware talk before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hears from acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in August. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in early August, the energy and environment community was watching.

It was Wheeler’s first appearance since his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, resigned after months of ethical, spending and personnel scandals. Washington was eager to see how Wheeler would right the agency.

Extra Hurricane Relief Cash Could Wait Until After Elections
Ryan: ‘Right now FEMA has money in the pipeline’

Residents of Spring Lake, North Carolina, are evacuated from their apartments as flood waters rise. FEMA enters the recovery phase with coffers flush with cash. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has more than enough money to assist states hit by Hurricane Florence and likely won’t need Congress to pass an emergency disaster aid bill in the coming weeks, based on figures provided to lawmakers.

Due to lawmakers’ largesse when they provided more than $136 billion in late 2017 and earlier this year — mostly to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma — government disaster aid coffers are flush with cash. It’s a vastly different situation from last year, when Congress returned in September after Harvey spent five days battering Houston and surrounding areas.

A Workhorse and a Hard Charger Aim for Transportation Top Spot
Sam Graves and Jeff Denham mostly align on policy, but couldn’t vary more in style

An airplane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at sunrise on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The personalities of the two candidates angling to be the next top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee may be the starkest difference between them.

As Steering Committee members decide committee leadership posts later this year, they’ll have to choose between behind-the-scenes operator Sam Graves of Missouri and Jeff Denham, a hard-charging Californian best known for nearly forcing House leadership’s hand on immigration votes by advancing a discharge petition earlier this year. 

Trump Tweet Jeopardizes Bipartisan Puerto Rico Bill
Grijalva: ‘It makes people that want to work on compromise become really suspicious’

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said the president’s Puerto Rico tweets have fanned the flames of suspicion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s comments defending his administration’s response to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico last year may have stymied chances for a bipartisan bill to reduce politicization and patronage at the territory’s publicly-owned electric utility, which some see as a key impediment slowing modernization of the island’s grid.

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah and ranking member Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona both say that action is needed to create safeguards to protect the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority from political influence.

FAA Authorization Still Grounded in Senate
Congress could be looking at sixth straight extension as Sept. 30 deadline approaches

Los Angeles International Airport in March. Congress could be headed toward its sixth straight extension of FAA authorization if it fails to meet a Sept. 30 deadline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration in June of last year. But the measure’s proponents have struggled ever since to get it to the floor, even as another deadline approaches at the end of this month.

Congress could be headed toward its sixth straight extension of FAA authorization if both chambers can’t pass a yet-unfinished conference bill before Sept. 30. House leaders on the issue, who steered easy passage of their measure earlier this year, have blamed the other chamber, which hasn’t passed its own bill.

SSTs Could Fly Again as Congress Targets Supersonic Ban
Decades-old rule says commercial aircraft can’t exceed Mach 1. That could change

The prospect of opening up the U.S. to high-speed flights has prompted warnings about the fate of the Concorde — the world’s largest supersonic passenger jet, retired years ago amid restrictions on sonic booms. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images file photo)

The U.S. has banned domestic commercial supersonic aviation for four decades, but lawmakers could upend those restrictions in the coming weeks even as environmentalists and public health advocates warn that doing so could elevate pollution and climate damage from high speed aircraft.

Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. A provision in the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill directs the agency to create federal and international “policies, regulations, and standards relating to the certification and safe and efficient operation of civil supersonic aircraft.”