Transportation Safety

Road ahead: House health care week again, as Senate tackles contentious nominations
House Democrats also voting on Equality Act, which will mark passage of half of their top 10 bills

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., is lead sponsor of the Equality Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s health care week, part two, in the House as the chamber will vote on a package of seven bills designed to strengthen the 2010 law and lower prescription drug prices — after passing a measure last week that Democrats said would protect people with pre-existing conditions.

But the health care package won’t be the only marquee legislation on the floor this week. Democrats will be halfway through advancing their top 10 bills out of the House after a vote on HR 5, the Equality Act.

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.

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.

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.

Missouri Lawmakers Want Congressional Action After Duck Boat Tragedy
Comes after 17 people died, including nine from the same family

Rep. Billy Long said, “We’ve got to do whatever we can to prevent anything similar to this happening” of the duck boat sinking in his district. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Billy Long wants congressional action after a duck boat sinking in his district killed 17 people.

“We’ve got to do whatever we can to prevent anything similar to this happening, if at all possible,” the Missouri Republican said.

Thune Adding TSA, NTSB Bills to FAA Authorization
‘This may be our one shot at actually moving a major piece of legislation’

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune is including additional transportation-related bills in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, he said in a Wednesday interview.

In an effort to broaden the appeal of a four-year FAA authorization bill, he was including other committee-approved bills to authorize the Transportation Security Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. The move is also an effort to clear as much of the committee’s business as possible when an opportunity for floor time arises, he said.

Thune, Peters Divide Over Big Trucks in Driverless Vehicle Bill
“Highly-automated trucks are not ripe for inclusion”

Trucks of Otto, an autonomous trucking company acquired by Uber. (Courtesy Dllu/Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0)

Members of a key Senate committee are divided over whether to include large trucks in legislation that would guide driverless-vehicle regulation in a disagreement that pits safety against jobs in the trucking industry.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said at a hearing Wednesday that autonomous vehicles will improve safety and lower emissions. He said trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds should be included in the legislation. 

Metro to Nats Fans: You're Out!
Transit system won't lift late-night moratorium for playoff baseball

The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority issued its “SafeTrack” plan to improve reliability and safety in Washington’s public transit system. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Washington Metro can take Washington Nationals fans out to the ball game Thursday night, but leaving may be another matter. The agency is sticking to its plan not to provide late-night service as part of its 10-month maintenance overhaul.

Despite pressure from the District of Columbia Council, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said Wednesday it will not lift its late-night service moratorium to accommodate fans attending the Nationals playoff game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Games have tended to last close to four hours. Metro says most service will cease by 11:45 p.m. and one southbound train will be available after midnight.

Metro Adds Weekend Shutdowns to Maintenance Plan
Updates to the existing overhaul include more station closures

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority continues its "Safe Track" plan to improve reliability and safety in Washington's public transit system into 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Washington Metro will close rail stations over eight upcoming weekends as it expands its maintenance overhaul after federal authorities criticized the agency for a July derailment, Metro said Tuesday.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, as Metro is formally known, extended the current Red Line surge, originally scheduled to end Thursday, through the weekend. While weekday service has been reduced by single-tracking, four stations on the western end of the line — White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville and Shady Grove — will close Saturday and Sunday, Metro said in a news release.

DC Metro Gets More Bad News
House Republicans plan no increase in funding for transit system beset by rail safety problems

Republicans on a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee said Metro officials have not prioritized the maintenance of the Washington's public transit system. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Metro can't look to Congress for near-term funding help as the Washington transit system battles long-standing operational and safety problems, at least until it can demonstrate it’s effectively using the federal money it already receives, Republicans said Tuesday.

Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the Highways and Transit subcommittee, said at a hearing that Metro has failed for decades to transition from prioritizing the building of its rail system to safely maintaining it.