Aviation

Chao defends delayed 737 Max decision, to House appropriators
The FAA’s handling of the crash raises questions about how the agency operates

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao arrives for the Senate Appropriations Committee Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed Transportation Department budget for FY2020 on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao defended to House appropriators the administration’s decision not to immediately ground the Boeing 737 Max after an Ethiopian Airlines crash last month, even as other countries did so right away.

While Chao was appearing before the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee to defend the administration’s budget request for her agency, Chairman David E. Price, D-N.C., and ranking member Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., both said they wanted to understand more about the Federal Aviation Administration's process for certifying the model of the Boeing plane.

Trump refuses to raise budget caps, complicating his re-election fight
‘Doesn’t sound like a winning position for Republicans,’ former GOP aide says

President Donald Trump speaks on Jan. 4 at the White House, flanked, from left, by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

Democratic lawmakers want to raise caps on federal spending. So do many Republicans. But despite the desires of each party’s congressional leadership, President Donald Trump is refusing to go along, possibly complicating his re-election bid.

In its latest federal spending request, the White House proposed a steep hike in the Pentagon budget for fiscal 2020 — an unsurprising move by a Republican president who has vowed to “rebuild” the U.S. military. But Trump and his team would keep existing spending caps in place.

FAA administrator defends decisions on Boeing 737 Max
Dennis K. Elwell faced sharp questions from senators from both parties at Wednesday hearing

A Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner takes off from Renton Municipal Airport near the company’s factory, on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration defended his decision to wait three days after a deadly crash in Ethiopia before ordering all Boeing 737 Max jets grounded, but he refused to divulge whether President Donald Trump had asked him to do so.

Acting FAA Administrator Dennis K. Elwell faced sharp questions Wednesday from senators in both parties at a Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing about the grounding decision and the FAA’s certification of the 737 Max planes, especially the agency’s process that allows manufacturers to self-certify compliance with safety requirements.

Hearing into 737 Max crashes will focus on FAA oversight
A Senate subcommittee will question the FAA‘s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9 began Wednesday

A Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner takes off from Renton Municipal Airport near the company’s factory, on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The first of what will likely be many congressional hearings into two catastrophic overseas crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max jets began Wednesday with senators focusing on how federal safety regulators delegate work to the manufacturers they oversee and how they react after accidents happen.

The Senate’s aviation and space subcommittee, led by Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, will question the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process for the 737 Max 8 and 9, and the March 13 decision to ground the planes, which came after other airlines and nations had already done so.

Former Delta pilot named to lead FAA as Chao seeks Max 8 audit
The agency faces questions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane, involved in two catastrophic crashes

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is escorted into her chair by R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, before a Senate Environment and Public Works Senate Committee in Dirksen Building titled “The Administration’s Framework for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America” on March 01, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen M. Dickson was nominated Tuesday to take over as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency facing questions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane involved in two catastrophic overseas crashes.

Also on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she had asked the department’s inspector general to conduct a formal audit of the certification process for the 737 Max 8.

FAA: New data led to grounding of 737 Max jets
All Max 8 and 9 models in the air right now ‘will be grounded’ today as soon as they land, Trump told reporters

The Boeing 737-8 is pictured on a mural on the side of the Boeing Renton Factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Updated 5:40 p.m. | The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 airliners grounded on Wednesday after enhanced satellite data showed similarities between Sunday’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and an October crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia.

President Donald Trump announced the decision, which came after the European Union, Great Britain, China and some airlines had already grounded the planes and members of Congress were calling on the FAA to follow suit.

Trump to face reporters after 5 days of silence and a run of bad news
Previous spans of silence have ended with eruptions from POTUS

President Donald Trump, after a five-day break, will face reporters’ questions Wednesday afternoon. Such silence spans have ended with presidential eruptions since he took office. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS - “Just another quiet day at the White House,” a reporter said to a Roll Call scribe as they left the executive campus Tuesday evening. “Too quiet,” the Roll Call reporter responded, adding: “Can’t last much longer.” The first reporter nodded knowingly and said, “Yeah...”

More than a bit out of character, President Donald Trump has not uttered a word in public since Friday. That is scheduled to change Wednesday afternoon — and anything could happen.

Boeing faces increasing political pressure to ground 737 Max 8
Elizabeth Warren weighs in through her presidential campaign, for one

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., issued a statement from her presidential campaign that Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes should be grounded, adding to a growing chorus of concern about the airplanes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid concerns over the safety of new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, the debate is spilling into presidential politics.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was among those calling for the United States to join other countries in grounding the planes on Tuesday after two crashes abroad.

Pipelines vulnerable under TSA’s watch
The same agency responsible for airport pat-downs is supposed to be guarding pathways for oil and natural gas

The Transportation Security Administration, better known for patting down passengers heading to their flights, is also in charge of securing about 2.7 million miles of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. (Barry Williams/Getty Images file photo)

Nearly 3 million miles of pipelines that crisscross the United States carrying oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids may be vulnerable to cyberattacks as the federal agency responsible for overseeing their security is overburdened with other responsibilities, lawmakers, government auditors and regulators say.

The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, better known for pat-downs of passengers heading to their flights, is also in charge of securing about 2.7 million miles of pipelines. Most are buried underground in remote and open terrain, but others run through densely populated areas, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

Party unity on congressional votes takes a dive: CQ Vote Studies
Decline more dramatic in the Senate

Of the top six Democrats who broke from their party in 2018, four are no longer in Congress, including Heidi Heitkamp, right. Senators eyeing the presidency, meanwhile, are sticking to their party like glue. Elizabeth Warren had a perfect unity score. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After Democrats and Republicans reached record highs sticking together by party on congressional votes in 2017, those numbers nose-dived in 2018 as lawmakers worked across the aisle on high-profile legislation, including a rewrite of the Dodd-Frank financial law, a package dealing with the opioid crisis, spending bills and an overhaul of the country’s criminal justice laws.

CQ’s annual vote study shows that in the House the total number of party unity votes — defined as those with each party’s majority on opposing sides — fell from 76 percent of the total votes taken in the House in 2017, a record, to 59 percent in 2018. That latter figure is the lowest since 2010, the most recent year of unified Democratic control of Congress. Election years typically have fewer votes and 2018 was no exception — the total number of votes taken in the House, 498, was the lowest since 2002.