Herb Jackson

What in the ho, hey is Roll Call doing talking to The Lumineers?

There’s no good reason for the politics editor of CQ Roll Call to write about the new album by The Lumineers, let alone interview founding member Jeremiah Fraites about President Donald Trump, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, or the death of Fraites’ older brother from a heroin overdose.

But growing up in the North Jersey town of Ramsey, Fraites and his brother had a thing for sharing what they thought were amusing names they saw on TV or in newspapers. And my name became one of them when it was printed under an admittedly goofy photo in 2005 in the Bergen Record, along with an announcement the paper was reopening its Washington bureau and sending me, its statehouse columnist, to staff it.

‘Beckmesser’ earns Rep. Chris Pappas the spelling bee title
But competition at National Press Club also turned on spelling cocktails

If you want to win the National Press Club’s Press vs. Politicians Spelling Bee, here’s a tip: Drinking might help.

Not necessarily drinking during the competition, although that certainly happens in the audience (and got official pronouncer Jacques Bailly  more laughs for the “dad jokes” in the use-the-word-in-a-sentence part of the questioning). There’s also a bar at the VIP reception for contestants and sponsors before the competition, and it’s up to them whether to partake before going on stage.

Maybe it’s time to untie the hands of special counsels
The way Mueller interpreted the special counsel’s limits to make a ‘prosecutorial judgment’ about a sitting president needs to be explored

ANALYSIS — Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III made clear he wouldn’t discuss “deliberations within our office” when he took questions from two House committees July 24 about his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and what Donald Trump’s presidential campaign knew and did about it.

That’s unfortunate. Even if you put aside the argument that Mueller writing that his report “does not exonerate” Trump really means he is “guilty” or “should be impeached,” the way Mueller interpreted the special counsel’s limits to make what he called a “prosecutorial judgment” about a sitting president needs to be explored further.

From front-runner to also-ran: Looking back on the Dean ‘scream’
Staffers with 2020 contenders should prepare to put aside hard feelings, focus on Trump, former Howard Dean spokeswoman says

It was the second time Tricia Enright had seen a campaign fly high and crash hard. 

Presidential contender and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had just finished a disappointing third in the 2004 Iowa caucuses when a pep talk urging supporters to keep up the fight ended with an otherworldly yell.

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

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.

Asked about gas tax, Chao says ‘nothing is off the table’
Transportation secretary also says the Trump administration has ‘learned from the past’

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Wednesday that the administration “has learned from the past” that it should consult with Congress before proposing an infrastructure plan, but stopped short of saying when consultations would start.

Appearing before the Senate’s Transportation-HUD appropriations subcommittee, Chao indicated there could be support from the White House for higher gas taxes and fees on airplane tickets, but she also renewed the administration’s call to cut red tape in project approvals and find ways to attract private-sector funding from pension funds and endowments.

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

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.

A 25-cent gas tax hike has support, but is 5 cents a year enough?
Right now, the hike is needed to maintain current spending levels, and isn’t enough to pare down a growing project backlog

As Congress debates how to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent, groups as disparate as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are urging lawmakers to bite the bullet and raise the gas tax by 25 cents a gallon over five years.

But even if they bite it, a nickel increase every year for five years may not be a magic bullet. That’s because the extra money in the early years will be needed just to maintain the current level of spending, and provide nothing to attack a growing backlog of projects.

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

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

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’s DOT stalling for revenge, say backers of NY-NJ project
The agency is accused of stalling Amtrak’s Gateway project because of Democratic opposition to a Mexico border wall

Senators from New Jersey and New York accused the Trump administration of stalling Amtrak’s Gateway project linking their states as revenge for Democratic opposition to a Mexico border wall. One said a deputy transportation secretary lied about the project, and that could hurt his nomination to serve in the Justice Department.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, who has been nominated for deputy attorney general, said Monday there was no funding for Gateway in the fiscal 2020 budget or in the fiscal 2019 appropriations package that Trump signed in February to end a standoff over the wall.

5 ways Congress may try to fix the Highway Trust Fund
Better mileage and slower growth in miles traveled have combined to produce less revenue than Congress voted to spend

For nearly half a century, taxes on gas and diesel fuel funded what Congress spent from the Highway Trust Fund on roads, bridges and, after a 1982 compromise, mass transit.

For the past decade, however, better mileage for cars and trucks and slower growth in the number of miles Americans traveled combined to produce less revenue than Congress voted to spend.

Trump offers 61 words on infrastructure, follow-up awaited
President Donald Trump declared Tuesday night that passage of an infrastructure package was a “necessity,” but didn’t provide specifics

It was only 61 words in a State of the Union speech that ran close to 5,500 words, but President Donald Trump declared Tuesday night that passage of an infrastructure package was a “necessity.”

Lawmakers and industry groups that were hoping he would mention it agreed, though they said he will need to follow up if he’s serious.

Cory Booker announces 2020 presidential bid
“I believe we can build a country where no one is forgotten,” New Jersey Democratic senator says

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker launched his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, telling supporters he wants to be a uniting force in an increasingly divided country.

“We are better when we help each other,” the former Newark mayor said in a video emailed to supporters and released on Twitter, where he has 4.1 million followers.

First House infrastructure hearing to highlight costs of delay
“We need to begin thinking about what are the costs and the potential for calamity if we don’t make these investments,” Chairman Peter DeFazio tells CQ

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will kick off its effort to boost highway and transit spending this year with a hearing Feb. 7 to emphasize the cost of delaying upgrades to aging roads, bridges, transit systems and airports.

“What happens if the rail tunnels under the Hudson River fail, what happens when the tunnel under Baltimore fails, built in the Civil War?” Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., told CQ last week during an interview. “What happens when two bridges, one 89 years old and one 60 years, over the Columbia River, they’re going to fail during an earthquake. And then I-5 is cut off?

Republican urges Trump to ‘jump-start’ infrastructure push

Democrats in Congress say they want to do it. President Donald Trump says he wants it, too.

But if a major transportation bill is going to happen this year, the ranking Republican on the House committee that would write it says Trump needs to get his own party on board, and that starts with State of the Union speech.