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Infrastructure in the News 11.11.16

BAF IN THE NEWS

 

Politico: Conservatives vs. Trump’s infrastructure plan (BAF is quoted)

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/conservatives-vs-trumps-infrastructure-plan-231221

One of Donald Trump’s top campaign promises — a trillion-dollar program to rebuild highways, tunnels, bridges and airports — is already meeting resistance from conservatives.

 

Buzzfeed: Nobody Is Sure What Trump’s $1 Trillion Transportation Plan Will Actually Look Like (Ray LaHood is quoted and BAF is mentioned)

https://www.buzzfeed.com/priya/trump-planes-trains-cars?utm_term=.ef1wyjVbj#.qoJ0zr1xr

Donald Trump is, if anything, a builder – of hotels, casinos, golf courses, apartments. He campaigned on introducing a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan. And in his acceptance speech Tuesday night, he promised to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.”

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

CURBED: Trump’s infrastructure ambitions may be something most Americans can get behind

http://www.curbed.com/2016/11/9/13573718/infrastructure-trump-rebuilding-roads

At a moment when many feel the nation is more divided than ever, in the midst of the post-election analysis and realization, there’s an issue that stands out as a rare source of agreement between parties. It’s a pressing problem that, if given the right attention and resources, could even deliver benefits to a divided electorate as well as both parties: repairing our infrastructure.

 

Dezeen: How Donald Trump will solve America’s infrastructure problems is completely unclear

http://www.dezeen.com/2016/11/09/opinion-donald-trump-america-infrastructure-problems-aaron-betsky/

America needs a lot of work. Its roads and bridges are crumbling. Its airports are a mess. It has virtually no long-distance public transportation system. Below the surface, sewers and water lines are leaking billions of gallons. Something needs to be done.

 

The New Republic: Beware Donald Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

https://newrepublic.com/article/138674/beware-donald-trumps-infrastructure-plan

We don’t know much about Donald Trump’s plans for this new toy he’s inherited called the world’s only superpower. But we know that he likes to put his name on things, which is why his prioritizing of an infrastructure program makes a lot of sense. He can barnstorm the country at ribbon-cutting ceremonies to show the tangible results of his presidency—in five block letters.

 

MSNBC: Trump’s infrastructure plan comes with an important catch

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trumps-infrastructure-plan-comes-important-catch

On Election Night, a jubilant Donald Trump, basking in his unexpected victory, talked about all of the amazing things he’ll do as president – though one point in particular stood out.

 

Washington Post: U.S. airlines plan appeal to Trump for protection against foreign competition

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/us-airlines-plan-appeal-to-trump-for-protection-against-foreign-competition/2016/11/09/2c125902-a6b4-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

Buoyed by Donald Trump’s protectionist campaign rhetoric, U.S. airlines who believe they are in an unfair competition with heavily-subsidized Persian Gulf carriers say they will ask the president-elect to intercede on their behalf.

 

STATE NEWS

 

Washington Post: Michigan, Flint ordered to make home water deliveries

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/michigan-flint-ordered-to-make-home-water-deliveries/2016/11/10/535a8e9c-a7ab-11e6-ba46-53db57f0e351_story.html

A federal judge has ordered the state of Michigan and the city of Flint to deliver bottled water to lead-tainted homes under certain conditions.

 

Washington Post: Will Donald Trump make Metro great again?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/11/10/will-donald-trump-make-metro-great-again/

As the region mulls President-elect Donald Trump’s vows for a comprehensive infrastructure package, many are wondering: What does this mean for Metro?

 

Sun-Gazette: Transportation group optimistic

http://www.sungazette.com/news/top-news/2016/11/transportation-group-optimistic/

A new president will mean a “significant change” in transportation infrastructure throughout Lycoming County, according to local transportation experts.

 

Denver Business Journal: Hickenlooper, new state Senate president at odds on transportation funding

http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2016/11/10/governor-new-senate-president-at-early-odds-on.html

Discussion of whether to reclassify the hospital provider fee to provide more money for transportation may be running out of gas even before the 2017 legislative session has begun.

 

Mass Transit Magazine: Atlanta Voters Mandate More Transit, Transportation Investments

http://www.masstransitmag.com/press_release/12278126/atlanta-voters-mandate-more-transit-transportation-investments

Two measures to fund transit expansion and transportation enhancements received resounding support from Atlanta voters in yesterday’s election. A referendum to raise $2.5 billion for more MARTA service passed by an overwhelming 72 percent.

 

Times Union: Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan welcomed in New York

http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-business/article/Trump-s-1-trillion-infrastructure-plan-welcomed-10607320.php

While the plans aren't very specific, President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to spend $1 trillion on the nation's decaying infrastructure is getting a warm response.

 

11 ALIVE: Commuter Dude: Collection of transportation tax months away

http://www.11alive.com/news/commuter-dude-collection-of-transportation-tax-months-away/350691105

Now that voters have agreed to pay more at the store, it will be months before the extra money goes toward improving your commute.

 

The Trucker: Voters in 8 states decide fate of transportation proposals

http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Story/Votersin8statesdecidefateoftransportationproposals 

Voters in eight states found transportation issues on the ballot in addition to national, state and local races. Five were approved, three were rejected.

 

The Detroit News: Editorial: Rework transit proposal

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/11/11/transit-proposal-rework/93629590/

The narrow loss Tuesday of the Regional Transit Authority millage proposal to transform Metro Detroit’s public transit system should not mean an end to the quest for better transportation options in the region.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/11/2016 05:36 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes, Tanya Snyder, Lauren Gardner and Kathryn A. Wolfe

STIMULUS 2.0? Opposition to Donald Trump's plan for infrastructure may not come from the other party — in fact, some Democrats seem happy to dive into the issue with the president-elect — but rather from conservative Republicans. Some conservative groups are already drawing comparisons between Trump's 10-year, $1 trillion proposal and President Barack Obama's stimulus.

"Conservatives do not view infrastructure spending as an economic stimulus, and congressional Republicans rightly rejected that approach in 2009," said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America. "It would be a mistake to prioritize big-government endeavors over important issues like repealing Obamacare, reforming our regulatory system and expanding domestic energy production," Holler added.

Questions remain: Still, Trump hasn't outlined all the details of his plan yet. As our Kathryn A. Wolfe and Lauren Gardner report: "The language Trump has put out so far suggests that his actual infrastructure spending would amount to far less than $1 trillion in federal money — instead relying on means like tax credits to spur private investment in transportation projects. He also hasn't suggested any fix for the government's perpetually cash-strapped Highway Trust Fund, which relies on a federal gasoline tax that Congress hasn't hiked for 23 years."

HAPPY FRIDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"I wish I could find a soul to steal. I could be the engine, you could be the wheel. When we're driving home, I never have to worry about being alone."

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REALITY CHECK: A former Obama administration DOT undersecretary for policy says when it comes to Trump's infrastructure proposals, "the promises are bigger than the reality." As our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros, Roy Kienitz, who served under former Secretary Ray LaHood, said during a Transportation for America panel discussion Thursday that Trump's plan may rely too heavily on an assumption: that it will generate enough tax revenue to offset tax breaks for investors, who'll provide the money for transportation projects.

Too many moving parts? "There's a lot of ways in which you can have complexity and slip-ups in such a process," Kienitz said. "Already, I'm starting to be a little suspicious about whether that actually can be operationalized or not." He also said: "The thing to look out for would be: Are the complicated ideas being introduced in the Congress to do an infrastructure package turning into something ... that will actually create the jobs and infrastructure at the end of the day?"

COMMON GROUND: At the same T4America panel event Thursday, one of the Senate Commerce Committee's top Democratic aides called for "folks to be cautiously optimistic" about plans for investing in infrastructure under Trump's administration, as Jen reports for Pros. Devon Barnhart, a professional staff member for the committee for almost four years, pointed out that there will be a bit of "shuffling of the decks" in Congress come January, at least when it comes to one committee with jurisdiction over infrastructure issues: Sen. Barbara Boxer, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is retiring, and Sen. Jim Inhofe is stepping down as chairman.

Come together: But Barnhart said Congress' success passing the FAST Act last year proves lawmakers can get work done on transportation and infrastructure. "Even though we've lost some of our key folks, we're going to see a lot of voices pushing the infrastructure agenda," she said.

WHITMER IS TRUMP'S TRANSPO POLICY LEAD: Martin Whitmer is serving as the Trump transition team's point person for transportation and infrastructure policy, POLITICO's Isaac Arnsdorfreports for Pros. Whitmer is a lobbyist at Whitmer & Worrall, where he is the head of the transportation and infrastructure practice. The outfit has advocated for Honeywell, Penske Truck Leasing, Virgin America and the Geosynthetic Materials Association. He is also a member of the Eno Center for Transportation's board. From 2001 to 2005, Whitmer served as DOT's deputy chief of staff. Before that, he was vice president of government relations at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, where he was also director of the public-private ventures division.

SHUSTER READY TO GET BACK IN THE GAME: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, who won reelection Tuesday in his Pennsylvania district, is gearing up to renew his fight to overhaul air traffic control. In a statement Thursday on the election results, Shuster said lawmakers soon "must pass an FAA reauthorization bill that modernizes our aging air traffic control system and significantly improves the efficiency of our aviation system." He added that he looks "forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump and my Senate and House colleagues to develop a transportation agenda that will benefit all Americans and ensure that our infrastructure is second to none," echoing Trump's acceptance speech Wednesday. "We are going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it," Trump said then.

AT THE TOP OF TRUMP'S AGENDA: After meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, Trump said his top priorities will be immigration, health care and jobs after Inauguration Day. "We're looking very strongly at immigration, we're going to look at the borders, very importantly, we're looking very strongly at health care and we're looking at jobs. Big-league jobs," Trump said. Read the story about Trump's meetings on Capitol Hill by POLITICO's Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett.

REPUBLICANS LEANING TOWARD A CR: Republican leaders in Congress want to advance a continuing resolution in the coming lame-duck session, rather than put together an omnibus while President Barack Obama is still in office. As POLITICO's Ben Weyl, Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan report for Pros: "House and Senate GOP leaders plan to move lame-duck legislation that funds the government at current levels into early next year, part of a strategy to split up any showdowns over a government shutdown and a debt-ceiling hike. 'The word of the day at least is that it would be a high preference of the leadership to keep the [continuing resolution] as clean as possible,' said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), adding that a larger agreement to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year would be too messy to pass before a Dec. 9 deadline."

Funding until spring: "One Republican source said leadership needed to 'see how much appetite there is from members over whether to pursue a CR or an omnibus spending bill," the POLITICO trio reports. "'We'll probably try to do CR until March or April, a clean one,' said a senior House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 'We can't pass anything longer, and that gives Trump time to set up his administration.'"

THE SIMPLER THE BETTER? NHTSA got a dose of public feedback Thursday at the first public meeting on its self-driving car guidance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, representatives of the auto industry disagreed with safety advocates on several points, as our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros. One of those points: the self-certification process for autonomous vehicles. Toyota's director of technical and regulatory affairs, Kevin Ro, said the certification should be "a simple check sheet that also allows for a short narrative." But safety advocates argued that the letter should include data on how each item was addressed.

How much is too much? Automakers also insisted that the reporting requirements outlined in NHTSA's guidance should be limited during testing phases. Craig Stevens, a Ford engineer, said that "software updates may occur weekly and generate a significant amount of data that would not be useful for NHTSA or others."

SAFETY ADVOCATE CALLS FOR HALT TO REVOLVING DOOR: At the same public meeting, former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook said DOT should forbid its workers from working at companies that make driverless cars for five years or more after they leave government. As Tanya reports for Pros, Claybrook, who's now the chairwoman of the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways' board, said such a ban would help in getting Americans to trust autonomous technology. She also called on NHTSA to issue formal regulations for self-driving vehicle development and rollout. As of now, NHTSA's guidance is voluntary.

REJECTED: FRA has shot down an industry request to push off the deadline for railroads to start mandating random drug and alcohol testing for maintenance personnel. "The country is in the throes of a devastating substance abuse crisis. The rail industry and its workforce are not immune from this crisis — we know that in fact many are suffering," FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said in a statement Thursday. "Delaying track workers from being included in the group of railroad employees tested for drugs and alcohol would delay the important work of preventing injuries and fatalities." As our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros, FRA also denied a request to scrap a requirement for railroads to share responsibility for regulatory compliance with contractors that test workers.

DOT FINES QATAR AIRWAYS: DOT slapped Qatar Airways with a $185,000 fine Thursday for flying in areas where the FAA had barred flights as it was carrying the designator code for American Airlines. "During late 2014 and early 2015, sixteen Qatar Airways flights carrying the American Airlines code entered foreign airspace while an FAA flight prohibition was in effect: eight flights entered Yemeni airspace, seven flights entered Iraqi airspace, and one flight clipped the boundary of Ukrainian airspace," DOT spokeswoman Caitlin Harvey told MT. "It is our understanding that, since that time, Qatar Airways has implemented an Advanced Flight Watch System which allows its Flight Watch Officers to track Qatar Airways flights around the globe." View DOT's consent orderhere.

MT MAILBAG: Safety advocates sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week asking him to fight any language in any spending bill that would increase truckers' hours and do away with their mandatory weekend off. "If this anti-safety measure is enacted, it will result in more overtired and overworked truck drivers driving alongside our loved ones, which will inevitably lead to more crashes, injuries, and fatalities," wrote Jennifer Tierney, a member of the board of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Jackie Novak, a volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition. Both writers lost family members in truck crashes.

Put on the pressure: They urge Foxx to advise President Barack Obama to veto a spending bill that has any provision to increase hours. "As you know, driver fatigue is a well-documented and widespread problem in the trucking industry," they wrote. "Clearly, the solution to this pervasive problem is not to add more driving and working time, but rather to consider ways to address and prevent fatigue."

IN THE LOBBYING WORLD: The American Chemistry Council hired a dozen lobbyists from Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas to advocate for the trade association on rail issues, scientific integrity and appropriations, according to a disclosure report. The team includes Mike Robinson, former director of coalitions and member services for the House Appropriations Committee and former director of legislative affairs for the American Trucking Associations. Robinson previously served as special projects assistant to the House Transportation Committee and staff assistant to former Rep. Bud Shuster.

THE AUTOBAHN:

— "Will Donald Trump make Metro great again?" The Washington Post.

— "Donald Trump's Nafta plan would confront globalized auto industry." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Tech stocks drop as Wall Street focuses on Trump stimulus." Reuters.

— "U.S. airlines plan appeal to Trump for protection against foreign competition." The Washington Post

— "Fiat Chrysler, GM soar as Trump may weaken fuel-economy rule." Bloomberg.

— "Hanjin assets draw two final bids." The Wall Street Journal.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 28 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 322 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,422 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

Nothing on our radar for today. Have a great weekend.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at transpocalendar@politicopro.com.

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/11/trumps-infrastructure-ideas-may-not-fly-with-conservatives-020091

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Conservatives vs. Trump's infrastructure plan Back

By Kathryn A. Wolfe and Lauren Gardner | 11/11/2016 05:11 AM EDT

One of Donald Trump's top campaign promises — a trillion-dollar program to rebuild highways, tunnels, bridges and airports — is already meeting resistance from conservatives.

The president-elect has vowed that his infrastructure proposal will create "millions" of jobs, likening it to Dwight Eisenhower's creation of the interstate highway system. It's one piece of his agenda that's drawing support from Democrats, who love public works programs just as much as Trump loves to brag about his experience building golf courses and skyscrapers.

But Trump's 10-year infrastructure proposal could offer an early test of how some of his more unconventional policy ideas will fly with conservative Republicans in Congress — even though he hasn't made it clear whether much, or even any, of that $1 trillion would come from federal coffers.

Dan Holler, spokesman for the group Heritage Action for America, questioned the job-creation claims for such plans, in the same way that conservatives have scoffed at the benefits of President Barack Obama's $832 billion stimulus.

"Conservatives do not view infrastructure spending as an economic stimulus, and congressional Republicans rightly rejected that approach in 2009," said Holler, whose group is the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

He said Congress should devote its energies to other items on Trump's wish list.

"It would be a mistake to prioritize big-government endeavors over important issues like repealing Obamacare, reforming our regulatory system and expanding domestic energy production," Holler said. "Along with confirming a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, these are the type of legislative efforts that will help anxious families and folks struggling all across the country."

Trump's proposal even got flak from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative group that his transition team has turned to for advice on his environmental policies. "There is little evidence that these public works projects promote long-run economic growth," CEI fellow Marc Scribner wrote Thursday in a blog post on "The Great Infrastructure Myth."

It's unclear whether these critiques presage major problems for Trump's plan, which he has yet to put forth in more than skeletal form.

The language Trump has put out so far suggests that his actual infrastructure spending would amount to far less than $1 trillion in federal money — instead relying on means like tax credits to spur private investment in transportation projects. He also hasn't suggested any fix for the government's perpetually cash-strapped Highway Trust Fund, which relies on a federal gasoline tax that Congress hasn't hiked for 23 years.

Even so, Trump cheered infrastructure advocates from both parties when he gave the issue a prime mention during his victory speech early Wednesday.

"We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," Trump said. "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none — and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."

For transportation supporters, the vocal buy-in from the developer-turned-politician spawned hope that his plan may get a warmer welcome from Congress than Obama's most recent infrastructure proposals received.

"I think that the X factor, the missing ingredient, has been in presidential leadership," one GOP industry lobbyist said. "It's been a real champion at the White House who really puts his or her shoulder into it."

"He gets all of that instinctively," another transportation lobbyist said. "That's all very positive."

Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) both gave Trump's proposal some encouraging though non-committal words Thursday. Thune said through a spokesman that he "supports enacting a national infrastructure improvement plan," while a spokesman for Shuster's committee said he's "encouraged ... that the idea of addressing transportation is gaining some traction in Washington."

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said he expects the topic to be a top priority for the panel next year, noting that "both presidential candidates proposed badly needed infrastructure investments that will help get Americans back to work." Hillary Clinton's five-year, $275 billion infrastructure proposal would have relied on revenue from some vaguely defined tax overhaul — though Trump boasted that his plan was bigger.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats that her party wants to work with Trump "to pass a bill very fast," according to a source on a conference call.

The group Building America's Future — chaired by former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — pledged to work with Trump and Congress "to tackle this unifying issue in the first 100 days." Pete Ruane, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, invoked Trump's post-election comments about "healing" after a bruising campaign, saying that "the bipartisan aspect of this is compelling."

Lamenting the "crumbling" state of the nation's roads and bridges has been a bipartisan pastime for years. Both Trump and Vice President Joe Biden have bemoaned the "Third World" condition of New York's LaGuardia Airport, where Trump often lands his private Boeing 757.

But Congress has been stuck for years on the question of how to pay for such projects, with suggestions such as bonds, enhanced revenues from tax reform, some hoped-for peace dividend or a hike in the gasoline tax coming and going with no action.

Trump will most likely have great sway with the GOP-held Congress, however, especially after his surge in the polls helped Republicans retain control of the Senate. Having the same party in charge of Congress and the White House certainly opens "the opportunity to solve a critical problem in a way that has lasting benefits and impact," said Katie Thomson, a former general counsel at the Department of Transportation who now works at the firm Morrison Foerster.

As Pelosi's remarks show, Democrats may also be eager to sign onto a bill that promises to boost domestic spending. "There is a potential irony here in that his more natural allies on specific items may actually be Democrats," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

Still, it's unclear how much Trump's proposal would actually boost federal dollars.

His pledge for the $1 trillion in investment, based on a proposal crafted by economist Peter Navarro and billionaire financier Wilbur Ross, talks about a "bold, visionary plan. ... in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower." But it would rely heavily on private funding that's driven by a tax credit — whose cost they say would be offset by tax revenues reaped from the resulting jump in business activity. That tax scheme would apply only to money-making infrastructure projects like toll roads and airports.

In Trump's 100-day "action plan," he says his proposal "leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years."

To experts in transportation policy, that language suggests relatively little — in fact, possibly no — investment on the federal level, relying instead on tax breaks to entice the private sector into opening up its wallet.

"Clearly the devil is in the details, but I think that whatever Trump comes up with, you're probably going to see a fair amount of involvement from the private sector," the GOP lobbyist said.

Trump initially floated a much different version last summer, telling the Fox Business Network the government would spend as much as $550 billion and "make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates." Pressed on the cost, he added: "We have bridges that are falling down. I don't know if you've seen the warning charts, but we have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling."

"Donald Trump Proposes $550 Billion in New Government Debt," the resulting Wall Street Journal headline read, suggesting the difficulties such a plan could face in a Republican Congress that has spent eight years lambasting Obama over deficit spending. The conservative site Newsmax called his idea "a steaming pile of hogwash."

His new talk about financing and "leveraging" might avoid those fiscal pitfalls, but it wouldn't fix the Highway Trust Fund. And for many transportation boosters, a plan that doesn't do that is a halfway solution.

"Financing is a nice piece of the puzzle," said Bud Wright, executive director of the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials. But he added: "We certainly believe that we need additional federal investment, but really finding funding to do that — using some traditional or creative sources to generate new revenues is important."

The only way to fix the trust fund long-term, experts said, is to generate reliable, recurring new revenues. But Thomson noted that that has been out of reach for some time — through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

"It's a political problem regardless of who's" in power, Thomson said. "There's a fundamental unwillingness to make politically difficult choices."

Ed Mortimer, executive director of transportation infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his group will make a case to the Trump administration that some kind of sustainable funding fix should be part of whatever plan the new president offers.

"We're very optimistic that we're going to find a way to come up with some long-term, sustainable funding," Mortimer said Wednesday. "We got a great shout-out last night."

Heather Caygle and Annie Snider contributed to this report.

Back

Former DOT official: Trump's infrastructure promises are 'bigger than the reality' Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 11/10/2016 03:46 PM EDT

A former Barack Obama DOT policy guru is casting doubt on whether Donald Trump's infrastructure plan will actually work, warning that there are many opportunities for "slip-ups" in the president elect's tax-break proposal.

"I don't think there is anyone who is skeptical ... that he's a person who likes building things and spending money," Roy Kienitz, formerly undersecretary for policy at DOT, said this afternoon during a panel hosted by Transportation for America. "The thing to look out for would be: Are the complicated ideas being introduced in the Congress to do an infrastructure package turning into something ... that will actually create the jobs and infrastructure at the end of the day?"

Trump's infrastructure plan relies on the assumption, Kienitz noted, that it will create enough additional tax revenue to offset the tax breaks it would provide investors who are willing to front the money for transportation projects.

"There's a lot of ways in which you can have complexity and slip-ups in such a process," Kienitz said. "Already, I'm starting to be a little suspicious about whether that actually can be operationalized or not."

The other major issue, according to Kienitz, is the fact that the plan is only intended to fund money-making projects, forcing state and local governments to resort to revenue-raising operations such as tolling.

"In the end, the promises are bigger than the reality," he said. "So I'd say that's the biggest danger."

Back

Senate Dem aide forecasts continued bipartisanship during Trump term Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 11/10/2016 04:13 PM EDT

A top Democratic aide for the Senate Commerce Committee urged cautious optimism this afternoon about infrastructure action during President-elect Donald Trump's administration.

"Anytime anyone says 'infrastructure,' I think we should all be excited," Devon Barnhart said during a panel discussion hosted by Transportation for America. "There's real opportunity for folks to be cautiously optimistic and excited that this conversation's happening." 

Barnhart noted that there will be some "shuffling of the decks" in terms of congressional leadership on infrastructure issues, with the retirements of Environment and Public Works ranking Democrat Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as well as Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) relinquishing his gavel.

But the makeup of the House and Senate are remaining largely the same, she said, and there is still a strong cadre of lawmakers dedicated to infrastructure investment.

"If the past is prologue, look at what we just did last Congress," Barnhart said. "Last Congress, Democrats and Republicans — working together — did one of the biggest infrastructure bills that we have done in decades. And not only was it a big spending bill, but it was a bill filled with a lot of things that we have all fought a long time for. ... Even though we've lost some of our key folks, we're going see a lot of voices pushing the infrastructure agenda."

Back

More details on Trump transition's policy leads Back

By Isaac Arnsdorf | 11/10/2016 05:41 PM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has picked point-people to look after the policy priorities that are likely to top the agenda of his new administration, including health care, defense, trade and his proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexican border.

They include Danielle Cutrona, counsel to Sen. Jeff Sessions on the Judiciary Committee, who is in charge of "Immigration Reform & Building the Wall," according to an organization chart obtained by POLITICO.

The latest names are in addition to an earlier list of advisers that POLITICO reported Wednesday.

On the other new names:

  • Paula Stannard, a lawyer at Alston & Bird who was deputy general counsel and acting general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services, has been tasked with health care reform.
  • Bert Mizusawa, a major general in the Army Reserve, is leading defense and national security, assisted by Sandra Luff, another Sessions aide.
  • Rolf Lundberg, who is tasked with trade reform, worked at the Chamber of Commerce until 2013 and spun off his own lobbying firm representing Choice Hotels and the International Franchise Association.
  • Jim Carter, charged with tax reform, is an in-house lobbyist for manufacturing company Emerson.
  • VA reform goes to Bill Hatfield, a former lobbyist and director of the Selective Service System under George W. Bush.
  • Michael Catanzaro is responsible for energy independence. At CGCN, he lobbies for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Hess, Encana, Noble Energy and Devon Energy.
  • Brian Johnson has financial services, and Rob Gordon takes regulatory reform.
  • Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute is leading education, supported by Townsend McNitt, former deputy chief of staff at the Education Department.
  • Martin Whitmer, a lobbyist at Whitmer & Worrall, is running transportation and infrastructure.
  • Ken Klukowski, senior counsel and director of strategic affairs for the First Liberty Institute, is in charge of "protecting constitutional rights."
  • The policy team is led by Ado Machida, a top domestic policy aide to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney and former lobbyist; Andrew Bremberg, a policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former HHS staffer; and Carlos Diaz-Rosillo, a lecturer at Harvard University.

Back

Trump makes nice with Hill GOP Back

By Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett | 11/10/2016 06:48 PM EDT

The Donald Trump-Paul Ryan courtship has officially begun. 

The two men, at odds for almost the entire campaign, were all pleasantries and compliments Thursday after a meeting on Capitol Hill that would have been impossible to fathom 48 hours ago. It was the surest sign yet that they're ready to leave their acrimony behind and take full advantage of an all-Republican Washington as the Trump administration kicks off.

Ryan gave Trump a brief tour of the Capitol, including a walk out onto the speaker's private balcony, with its expansive view over the National Mall — where Trump will be sworn in on Inauguration Day.

"Donald Trump had one of the most impressive victories we have ever seen and we're going to turn that victory into progress for the American people, and we are now talking about how we are going to hit the ground running to get this country turned around and make America great again," the Wisconsin Republican said after their meeting.

Trump thanked him for showing him the "beautiful" view and even felt so comfortable that he announce his policy priorities — border security, the economy and health care reform — to the press in a rare moment of candor about an hour later.

The upbeat, positive setting appeared to dramatically reduce the possibility that Trump would seek to oust Ryan as speaker. Many have wondered if Trump will seek revenge on Ryan for keeping his distance during the election cycle. The two have sparred in several very high-profile disputes on policy and style over the past few months.

But Trump has signaled little desire to replace Ryan with a loyalist, and Ryan's allies are confident he'll retain his post.

"The past is the past," Ryan said on FOX News "Special Report" Thursday evening after host Bret Baier played a clip of Trump saying he was disappointed Ryan didn't support him more. "This was an unconventional year. He was an unconventional candidate. But the point is, we unified."

Ryan went on to downplay his past policy differences with Trump. Asked if he supported building a wall along the border, an idea Ryan previously panned, the speaker said he supported securing the boarder and that it could include a physical component. He also said he and Trump are on the same page on replacing Obamacare and cutting taxes.

"We want to go big. We want to go bold. We want to do everything we said we would do," Ryan said. "Now we're going through sort of the nitty-gritty details how to get these things done."

After his meal with Trump, his wife, Melania and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the speaker lauded Trump's historic win and even parroted the president-elect's stock campaign slogan to "make America great again." Trump then huddled with McConnell and Pence following his lunch, though Pence left after 20 minutes to go meet with Vice President Joe Biden. McConnell said afterward Trump wanted to "get going early, and so do we."

"It was a first-class meeting," said the famously mum McConnell. 

The meetings come as Trump and Pence are in town meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. Trump's surrogates have likewise begun reaching out to a number of top Republican lawmakers as they work to build a core group of congressional allies and get a sense of their priorities. 

Republicans will soon control the presidency and both chambers of Congress, leaving them in prime position to enact conservative legislation in 2017. Lawmakers are already talking about repealing Obamacare — a GOP talking point that's gone from pipe dream to real possibility — cutting taxes and scaling back regulations. 

Trump's noisy motorcade arrived on the Hill around 1 p.m. as a group of several dozen pedestrians stopped and lined up behind a yellow taped off area to see if they could get a glimpse of the new president. Toward the end of their meeting, a man in business attire started cursing at some of the onlookers, who he took for Trump supporters.

The U.S. Capitol Police apprehended him quickly, cuffed him and put him in the back of a large white police van as he yelled something along the lines of "we still have freedom of speech in this country. ... You can yell at Trump supporters without being handcuffed and put in the back of a police van." 

As Trump walked with his wife, Pence and McConnell to the Senate majority leader's office for his second Hill meeting, he said the view from the Speaker's balcony over the mall was "really, really beautiful, thank you." He declined to answer shouted questions about whether he supports Ryan as speaker or his plans to defeat ISIS.

"A lot of really great priorities. People will be very, very happy. Well, we have a lot," Trump said after a sit-down with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "We're looking very strongly at immigration, we're going to look at the borders, very importantly, we're looking very strongly at health care and we're looking at jobs. Big league jobs."

Asked if he would work with Congress to ban Muslim immigrants, a key campaign priority, Trump walked away and thanked the press.

Trump's pronouncements of his priorities came after he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence made the congressional rounds on Thursday, and Republicans began piecing together a plan to take the reins of power in Washington. Earlier in the day Trump repeatedly committed to "lower taxes" as he spoke to reporters while meeting with Ryan.

His declarations presaged an ambitious agenda on Capitol Hill for Republicans that will likely include repealing Obamacare, rewriting the tax code and confirming a new Supreme Court nominee. Trump is itching to get things done and several times on Thursday made it clear he won't be pursuing a cautious agenda. And Ryan and McConnell, for their part, seemed to agree, with the speaker boasting of efforts to "hit the ground running to get this country turned around."

"Quite frankly we can't get started fast enough... whether it's on healthcare or immigration so many different things. We're going to lower taxes, so many different things we are going to be working on," he told reporters.

There's a growing sense among various factions of the divided House GOP Conference — from the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus to the moderate Tuesday Group — that it's time to put aside their differences as Trump's transition gets underway.

"The focus is: How we can make sure that the Trump administration is the most successful administration, in the first 100 days, of any administration we've seen in modern history?" said Freedom Caucus co-founder Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). "What I think you're going to see is honest and forthright negotiating ... on how we're going to get regulatory reform, lower health care costs and veterans taken care of."

The Senate will move more cautiously because Republicans will need at least eight Democratic votes to pass most legislation, barring drastic rule changes. McConnell signaled at a news conference Wednesday that while he will pursue ambitious goals like repealing Obamacare, he also doesn't think the party has carte blanche. 

"I think overreaching after an election, generally speaking, is a mistake," McConnell said. "I think it's always a mistake to misread your mandate, and frequently new majorities think it's going to be forever. Nothing is forever in this country."

Edward-Isaac Dovere and Matthew Nussbaum contributed to this report.

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GOP leaders look to dodge spending, debt ceiling clash Back

By Ben Weyl, Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan | 11/10/2016 02:01 PM EDT

House and Senate GOP leaders plan to move lame duck legislation that funds the government at current levels into early next year, part of a strategy to split up any showdowns over a government shutdown and a debt ceiling hike.

"The word of the day at least is that it would be a high preference of the leadership to keep the [continuing resolution] as clean as possible," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), adding that a larger agreement to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year would be too messy to pass before a Dec. 9 deadline.

One Republican source said leadership needed to "see how much appetite there is from members" over whether to pursue a CR or an omnibus spending bill.

"We'll probably try to do CR until March or April, a clean one," said a senior House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "We can't pass anything longer, and that gives Trump time to set up his administration."

Delaying final spending levels any later would probably not fly for defense hawks, who are eager to give the Pentagon a budget boost. Stiff spending caps for defense and domestic spending under the 2011 Budget Control Act are also set to return next year, which will weigh on lawmakers and a Trump White House.

Many on the right are already pushing for an appropriations punt. 

"It would be inappropriate to negotiate a lame-duck spending deal with President [Barack] Obama and Harry Reid, which would further jeopardize the nation's fiscal health," Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said in a statement.

Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), said discussions on how to proceed in the lame duck are ongoing.

Republican leaders are also eager to de-link the need to increase the debt ceiling from funding the government. Privately, House Republicans say that with Trump in control of the Treasury Department next year, they will not have to worry about government funding and debt ceiling deadlines colliding, as Obama repeatedly faced. Some in the GOP believe the Obama administration manipulated the precise debt limit deadline for maximum political leverage.

The Trump administration can use "extraordinary measures," as the Obama administration did, to extend the debt-ceiling deadline for months, possibly until the fall. That would give Trump and GOP congressional leaders time to work out a spending deal without a debt crisis hanging over their heads. Congress voted in the fall of 2015 to "suspend" the debt ceiling — currently at about $20 trillion — until March 2017.

"It will be Trump's Treasury now, we won't have to worry about that," said a House GOP aide close to the issue. "We can control that."

The politics of a debt-ceiling increase are tough for any president and party in power on Capitol Hill. That's why it is likely that there will be only one such vote during the next Congress, and Republicans will try to set the new ceiling so high that it will allow Trump to implement his domestic agenda.

And as distasteful as a debt ceiling increase is, next year's lift might be less dramatic than recent clashes. Previously, Republicans used the occasion to try to extract policy concessions from Obama. Now, they're likely to want to move past it as fast as possible.

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Automakers call for simple self-certification process for driverless cars Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/10/2016 04:06 PM EDT

Car manufacturers asked NHTSA today to make the self-certification process for driverless cars as simple as possible; meanwhile, safety advocates asked for exactly the opposite.

At a public meeting on NHTSA's autonomous car guidance, Kevin Ro, Toyota's director of technical and regulatory affairs, asked that the certification consist of "a simple check sheet that also allows for a short narrative." He went on to elaborate that "the check options for each could be, 'yes, this issue was considered,' or 'no, this issue was not considered,' or 'not applicable.'"

Safety advocates at the meeting asked that the letter go into more detail than simply whether an item was "considered," to include data revealing how it was addressed. Automakers also differed from safety advocates on whether regulations were necessary, or whether voluntary guidance was appropriate for this stage of development.

Several manufacturers requested that NHTSA come up with a template for the safety assessment letter that they can follow.

Craig Stevens, an engineer at Ford, asked to limit the reporting requirements during testing, as he said they could slow innovation. During testing, he said, "software updates may occur weekly and generate a significant amount of data that would not be useful for NHTSA or others." Many others echoed this point, calling frequent updates "unduly burdensome" and "impractical."

Several, though not all, asked for different requirements for testing as opposed to deployment, and many asked that one signatory be able to sign off on the entire assessment, since tracking down 15 different supervisors to sign off on the 15 different elements could be onerous. 

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Safety advocate recommends revolving door ban for driverless car companies Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/10/2016 10:41 AM EDT

Former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook suggested this morning that DOT should bar its employees from joining autonomous vehicle companies for at least five years after leaving the agency.

Claybrook, who now chairs the board of the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, spoke at a meeting soliciting comment on the driverless car guidance NHTSA introduced Sept. 20. She said the ban on revolving-door movement between government and industry is essential to give the public confidence in the technology and NHTSA's ability to oversee it.

David Strickland, who led NHTSA until early 2014, now represents autonomous car manufacturers as general counsel and spokesperson of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.

Claybrook, along with representatives from other consumer groups, also asked that NHTSA move to issuing a rule, rather than leaving the guidance as voluntary, in part because it would give the public a chance to participate where an informal process does not.

John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog criticized NHTSA's voluntary 15-point safety self-certification checklist for automakers as too lax, saying, "Apparently all it takes to deploy a robot car is a 47-cent postage stamp."

Claybrook warned NHTSA not to rush to bring driverless cars to market in order to save lives. If they want to save lives, she said, they "need to look into their dockets to see items long overdue" like rear seat reminders, motor coach roof strength resistance, heavy vehicle speed limiters and new entrant trucker exams.

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FRA rejects industry petition to extend drug and alcohol testing deadline Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/10/2016 01:14 PM EDT

Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg rejected an industry petition today to extend the deadline for railroads to begin requiring random drug and alcohol tests for track workers.

Industry groups had also asked the agency to nix a requirement for railroads to share responsibility for compliance with contractors who test rail workers, which they said went against rules letting them hash the issue out in contracts. This request was also rejected.

"The country is in the throes of a devastating substance abuse crisis. The rail industry and its workforce are not immune from this crisis — we know that in fact many are suffering," Feinberg said in a statement. "Delaying track workers from being included in the group of railroad employees tested for drugs and alcohol would delay the important work of preventing injuries and fatalities."

FRA finalized a rule in May to extend its substance testing regime to track maintenance personnel.

An FRA official indicated last month that Feinberg wasn't keen on the railroad groups' requests given the severity of the national opioid epidemic and a recent spike in positive tests among track workers killed in accidents.

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