Wall Street Journal: Amazon’s Holiday Deliveries Face Disruption From Pilot Strike
Amazon.com Inc.’s newly established in-house transportation network is facing a rocky start to its all-important holiday season.
New York Times: Auto Safety Regulators Seek a Driver Mode to Block Apps
Apple iPhones and other hand-held devices have long had an airplane mode that shuts off wireless communications to prevent interference with the vast electronics systems that control modern aircraft.
Associated Press: Pre-Thanksgiving traffic outlook: Busier than last year
The Maryland Transportation Authority is advising Thanksgiving travelers to leave either before dawn or late at night to avoid congestion.
Associated Press: Tennessee crash revives debate over school bus seat belts
A crash that killed five children in Tennessee is reviving discussion over whether school buses — considered among the safest vehicles on the road because of their height and bulk — should also be equipped with seat belts.
Reuters: Ex-congressman Ford being considered for U.S. transportation secretary: Politico
Former Democratic Representative Harold Ford Jr of Tennessee is being considered for U.S. transportation secretary or another Cabinet post in Donald Trump's administration, Politico reported on Tuesday, citing two unnamed sources.
Trading Nation: Ship it! Transport stocks surge in what may be a good sign for market as a whole
Transportation stocks are rallying on the heels of the holiday season, and that may be a bullish indicator for the market and the economy at large.
CNN Money: The bashing of Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure plan has begun
If there's one issue that both Republican and Democrats can agree on, it's the idea of repairing, modernizing and expanding U.S. infrastructure.
Roll Call: Sanders Calls Trump’s Infrastructure Plan a ‘Scam’
Sen. Bernie Sanders has denounced President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal as “a scam.”
The Atlantic: Infrastructure Is Only Popular Without Concrete Details
The allure of focusing on American infrastructure during Trump’s first 100 days is self-evident: It’s an issue that has bipartisan support and, unlike choosing a Supreme Court nominee or reversing protections for undocumented immigrants or approving the Keystone XL pipeline, would be an ambitious legislative endeavor of his own creation.
Washington Post: Judge reaffirms Purple Line construction can’t start until Metro ridership impact is studied
A U.S. District judge reaffirmed Tuesday that construction cannot begin on Maryland’s Purple Line until federal officials determine the impact Metro’s declining ridership could have on the light-rail line that will connect to the subway.
Los Angeles Times: California transportation efforts are officially dead for 2016
Speculation over a potential last-minute push on a transportation funding plan ended Tuesday, when Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders declared there would be no lame-duck negotiations this month.
Reader: What will ‘Trumpsportation’ mean for Chicago?
As it was for the people behind virtually every other progressive cause, the election of Donald Trump was a sad day for those of us who want to see the U.S. move toward a more efficient, healthy, and equitable transportation system.
The Enterprise: Will Trump make state's transportation great again?
While President-elect Donald Trump vowed to build a wall, Maryland lawmakers and officials are hopeful he will build up the state’s roads, tunnels and public transit.
Huffington Post: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Dwarfed By Estimates Of Need
States welcome President-elect Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. But their need is more than three times that.
Politico Morning Transportation - By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/23/2016 05:40 AM EDT
With help from Tanya Snyder
HIGH-TECH TRANSPO WORLD HOPEFUL TRUMP MEANS FEWER REGS: President-elect Donald Trump has yet to weigh in on what he believes the federal government's role should be in the development, rollout and possibly future widespread use of driverless cars and drones. But members of the auto and tech industries are optimistic that with Trump's tough talk about cutting red tape and business background, the government won't try to slow them down as they bring new products to the market while he's in office.
"You could make a strong case that he thinks that technology will be good for the country and society in a lot of different ways — good for jobs, good for safety, and good for business," Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist told our Tanya Snyder.
Industry: The more hands-off, the better: Under President Barack Obama's administration, DOT has received praise for committing to strike a balance between ensuring safety and giving industry breathing room to innovate. But automakers and technology companies would still be happy to see an even more laissez-faire approach. However, as Tanya reports for Pros, as technologies like self-driving cars become more common, there'll be less of a need for human labor, which may begin to worry the blue-collar workers who supported Trump at the polls this year.
IT'S WEDNESDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your MT host is heading to Connecticut, where mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin cheesecake ice cream awaits. In between mouthfuls, please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to email@example.com or @brigurciullo.
"So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump. Well, we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across the dump saying, 'Closed on Thanksgiving.'" (h/t the Ferris family)
Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Morning Transportation won't publish on Thursday, Nov. 24, and Friday, Nov. 25. The next Morning Transportation will publish on Monday, Nov. 28. Please continue to follow Pro Transportation issues here.
A DEMOCRAT FOR TRUMP TRANSPO SECRETARY? Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., a moderate Democrat, could be a candidate for Transportation secretary or another Cabinet position, POLITICO's Annie Karni reports. Ford represented Tennessee's 9th District for five terms and has been a managing director at Morgan Stanley since 2011. He endorsed Hillary Clinton and donated to her 2016 campaign, but he is apparently close with Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Ford hasn't yet met with the president-elect, but sources say he's open to an offer to serve in the incoming Republican administration.
Annie reports: "Trump, an adviser said, is keen on adding some Democrats to his Cabinet, and Ford's made-for-TV looks could endear him to Trump (as could his regular appearances on 'Morning Joe,' which Trump tunes into regularly)."
TRUMP: RYAN, McCONNELL 'LOVE' ME: When asked at a meeting with New York Times staffers Tuesday how he thinks Republican leaders in Congress will react to his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, Trump said: "Right now, they're in love with me," according to a tweet from Mike Grynbaum, a Times writer who was in the room. Trump then said: "Four weeks ago, they weren't in love with me," per a tweet from White House reporter Julie Davis. Maggie Haberman, a presidential campaign correspondent for the Times, tweeted: "'Paul Ryan, right now, loves me. Mitch McConnell loves me,' Trump says. Then says, 'I've liked Chuck Schumer for a long time.'"
INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING: A CARROT FOR DEMS TO SUPPORT TAX REFORM? Republicans are so far considering two different ways to overhaul the tax code: "a bipartisan package with infrastructure spending to lure Democrats, and a GOP-only reconciliation bill," Katy O'Donnell and Bernie Becker report. As for a plan that couples major tax changes with spending on infrastructure, the Pro Tax duo offers some history of past negotiations between Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate's soon-to-be minority leader, and House Speaker Paul Ryan:
"The Ryan-Schumer talks may serve as a guide to the potential pitfalls ahead. Those negotiations on a deal pairing highway funding with international tax reforms fell apart last fall over concerns about spending. Schumer pushed for more money for highway spending in order to secure the support of Democrats wary of giving multinational corporations a tax break — a tough sell for House Republicans. Ryan, meanwhile, maintained that such a deal should include broad reforms to the international tax code, rather than a one-time repatriation giveaway. Some of the same issues persist today. ...
"Many House Republicans are leery of a repatriation-infrastructure deal, since mandatory or 'deemed' repatriation — even at a significant discount from the current 35 percent corporate rate — would count as a tax increase for the companies that weren't planning to bring the earnings back at all. Funding a bonanza in new government spending with a tax increase is a nonstarter with conservatives."
THE REVIEWS ARE IN (FOR DOT'S DRIVERLESS CAR GUIDANCE): The 60-day comment period for NHTSA's guidance on self-driving cars just ended. Many industry groups and state DOTs asked NHTSA to be clearer about how it would certify that a carmaker has met each item on the 15-point safety assessment it released as a part of the guidance and warned against counting on states to make those evaluations themselves. The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets (made up of Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber and Volvo) wants Congress to give NHTSA more power to grant exemptions to current vehicle standards that require human controls.
Feedback galore: In its comments, Uber noted that NHTSA's guidance doesn't consider the possibility that driverless cars could usher in a new era of shared fleets. While some automakers shied away from committing too much in the way of data sharing, some advocacy groups highlighted the enormous benefits that could come from that information — not just in the field of safety but also greenhouse gas emissions and more. Automakers want to make sure that each new software update they make won't require a whole new submission to NHTSA, since — especially in the testing phase — those updates could happen daily. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked DOT to update the guidance quickly in response to these comments, rather than waiting a year, as planned.
FTC official gives thumbs-up: The cybersecurity advice in the guidance received praise from the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. NHTSA recommends that carmakers "follow a robust product development process based on a systems-engineering approach to minimize risks to safety, including those due to cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities." Director Jessica Rich called this advice "vitally important" and noted that the FTC, too, has repeatedly communicated it. She also said, quoting the guidance: "I support the recommendation that companies share their experiences throughout the industry so that every company does not 'have to experience the same cyber vulnerabilities in order to learn from them.'"
To be continued: Even though the official comment period has come to an end, NHTSA will continue soliciting public input for the foreseeable future. Since the agency isn't anticipating a move to rulemaking anytime soon, there's plenty of time to keep the conversation going and tweak the document as needed.
GM PERMITTED TO DELAY TAKATA RECALL: NHTSA is letting General Motors hold off on recalling 2.5 million vehicles that have airbags with Takata inflators, The Associated Press reports. GM has said that the inflators in its vehicles are safer than the ones connected to 11 deaths in the United States. The company now has until Aug. 31, 2017, to finish testing its inflators and show regulators that they won't hurt consumers. Then NHTSA might cancel the recall, which covers older GM trucks and SUVs.
The AP reports: "The testing could help GM fend off several recalls totaling 6.8 million trucks and SUVs with the same inflators that ultimately could cost the company $870 million, according to a GM filing with securities regulators. Another batch of recalls is slated to start Dec. 31. The delay also pushes the decision into the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has stated that he wants to get rid of unnecessary government regulation." NHTSA's decision is already drawing criticism from safety advocacy groups.
U.S.-EU DISPUTE OVER NAI HEADING FOR ARBITRATION: With DOT failing to give landing rights to a subsidiary of Norwegian Air, the European Commission will likely kick off the formal arbitration process this week, POLITICO Europe's Joshua Posaner reports . "The dispute is centered on the U.S. Department of Transportation's refusal to approve a permit for the Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air, called Norwegian Air International, to fly into Boston and New York from Cork," Josh reports. "The dispute has been dragging on for two years, and in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in late July, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said arbitration was on the table 'despite the patience and the goodwill that the EU has shown.'" DOT declined to comment to MT on the situation Tuesday.
AIRBUS ALLOWED TO SELL MORE THAN 100 PLANES TO IRAN: The U.S. government granted a license this week to Airbus so the company could sell over 100 airplanes to Iran Air, according to multiple news reports . The jets are together worth billions of dollars. Airbus is headquartered in France, but 10 percent or more of its airplane parts are manufactured in the United States, which means it needs U.S. permission before it can sell its aircraft to Iran. The company previously received approval to sell 17 planes. The House passed legislation last week that would prevent Airbus and Boeing from selling passenger planes to Iran. Together, the two companies have made deals to sell or lease more than 200 planes. The future of those deals are uncertain with Trump heading to the White House.
MT MAILBAG I: The heads of the Civil Aviation Medical Association and Aerospace Medical Association wrote to the top lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services committees with concerns over certain language in the National Defense Authorization Act. "It is our understanding that language has been inserted into the NDAA that would eliminate the need for any attestation statement by a physician performing a medical exam on pilots covered in [the recent FAA extension], essentially removing the medical requirement for these pilots," CAMA President Clayton Cowl and AsMA Executive Director Jeffrey Sventek say in their letter.
"We believe changes in civil aviation policy have absolutely no place in a military policy bill, and recently negotiated compromises in the language should not be re-litigated just weeks after becoming law and prior to the law even being implemented," they wrote. "The safety of our airspace, occupied by hundreds of thousands of passengers, pilots, and flight crews, is simply too important to be potentially jeopardized by eleventh-hour political maneuvering."
MT MAILBAG II: The Aerospace Industries Association recently sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking them to finish legislation that would fund the government through fiscal year 2017, rather than pursue a continuing resolution that keeps funding at current levels for a few months (which is most likely to happen at this point). "Few things could provide a greater sense of stability for our industry going forward than completing final FY17 appropriations bills," reads the letter, which over 70 leaders of AIA's member companies signed. They also request that Congress "restore the full functionality" of the Export-Import Bank.
STATE WARNS OF TRAVEL DANGERS IN EUROPE: The State Department issued an alert this week to Americans traveling to Europe during the holidays, warning them of the "heightened risk of terrorist attacks" across the continent. The alert will remain in place until Feb. 20. "U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when attending large holiday events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation, and frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc.," the alert says. Read the entire warning here.
NEWS YOU CAN USE: For the first time, Amtrak will have a sale on Black Friday. It's offering a 30 percent discount from Friday to Monday on trips scheduled for Dec. 10 through April 9. But take note: The special prices will only be for coach, one-way, and won't be offered on all of Amtrak's routes. Tickets will probably run out quickly.
— "Auto safety regulators seek a driver mode to block apps." The New York Times.
— "Volkswagen outlines plans to boost profit, push into electric cars." The Wall Street Journal.
— "School bus driver arrested as city mourns 5 children" in Tennessee. The Associated Press.
— "Tired of travel fees? Here's a charge you may be unaware of." The Associated Press.
— "Judge reaffirms Purple Line construction can't start until Metro ridership impact is studied." The Washington Post.
— "After rash of red-signal overruns, Metro to begin train-operator testing." WAMU 88.5.
— "Lufthansa cancels 876 flights Wednesday as pilots strike." The Wall Street Journal.
— "Pence's plane landed midway down runway in October mishap." Bloomberg.
— "Pilots strike at cargo carrier serving DHL, Amazon.com." The Wall Street Journal.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 16 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 310 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,410 days.
THE DAY AHEAD:
Nothing on our radar for today. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Did we miss an event? Let MT know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stories from POLITICO Pro
High-tech transpo backers hope for a laissez-faire Trump administration Back
By Tanya Snyder | 11/23/2016 05:08 AM EDT
With President-elect Donald Trump set to take office in January, representatives from nascent industries like drones and driverless vehicles point to his business background and anti-regulatory rhetoric as evidence that he may just leave them be — which is exactly what they want.
"He has a pro-business take on things," said former DOT official Katie Thomson, now at Morrison Foerster. "It could expedite the deployment and use of these technologies."
Though most of Trump's opinions about specific issues are unknown, he's taken a classic Republican position in favor of reducing government regulations, many of which he sees as "wasteful and unnecessary" job-killers. And automakers and others involved in developing self-driving cars hope that Trump's market focus will translate into a pro-technology and pro-business outlook.
"I think he's going to be very market-focused," said Gloria Bergquist, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the automakers' primary lobby group. "You could make a strong case that he thinks that technology will be good for the country and society in a lot of different ways — good for jobs, good for safety, and good for business."
But, Bergquist added, "We just don't know." Given what an nontraditional politician Trump is, "all bets are off."
Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, predicted that Trump's DOT will continue to build on NHTSA's guidance document for driverless cars, but with a lighter touch on regulations. Beyond that, Feigenbaum said Trump's business experience will inform his thinking on innovations in transportation technology.
"He's a developer, and in my experience ... developers tend to appreciate the role of transportation and advances in technology, because they see the need [to provide access] to their properties," Feigenbaum said.
To be sure, some in the business of self-driving cars — including Google — have expressly asked the federal government to be a "partner" in helping realize the nascent technology. But figuring out the line between regulations that create a level playing field and those that stifle a new innovation can be difficult.
"Democrats are closer to Silicon Valley, but Republicans care about tech," said Steve Martinko, a lobbyist with K&L Gates who represents drone companies. Cliff Rothenstein, another lobbyist from the same firm, forecast a Trump administration that will be "less prescriptive" than President Barack Obama has been.
Similarly, though Trump has yet to weigh in on how he feels about widespread adoption of commercial drones, advocates are banking on his free-market background to work in their favor.
"I haven't heard President-elect Trump say one way or another what the administration's stance on drones would be," said Lisa Ellman, an expert on drones and the law at Hogan Lovells, "but he's indicated that he's pro-business, pro-economic growth and wants the U.S. to succeed."
Others in the industry echo the optimism. Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said Trump's administration will "continue fostering a favorable regulatory environment for the robotics industry."
Though Obama's DOT has generally been praised for driverless car and drone efforts that have attempted to balance innovation and regulation, some believe the administration has been overly prescriptive and are eager for the next administration to tack away from that stance.
Gary Shapiro, director of the Consumer Technology Association, has criticized Obama's DOT for "trying to regulate everything that goes into the car," including smartphones. "Do I think Trump and his Department of Transportation will want to do that? Absolutely not."
Shapiro is also enthusiastic about upcoming changes in the Senate — in particular, the departure of Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), whom Shapiro calls "hostile" to technology. He sees incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a pro-business "deal-cutter."
There's a caveat to the enthusiasm for Trump's business chops, though — greater deployment of technology, especially driverless cars, typically means less use for humans. And that could cause Trump some heartburn among the blue collar workers worried about their jobs that just propelled him into office.
Democrat Harold Ford Jr. emerging as potential Trump cabinet pick Back
By Annie Karni | 11/22/2016 05:53 PM EDT
Former Democratic Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. is emerging as a possible contender for transportation secretary, or another cabinet post, in Donald Trump's budding administration.
The telegenic Ford — who served five terms in Congress representing Tennessee and is the son of a long-serving Democratic congressman from Memphis — has worked as a managing director at Morgan Stanley since 2011, and is a regular news analyst on MSNBC.
Ford endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, and he and his wife, Emily, contributed to Clinton's campaign. But Ford is also close with Trump's children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, an associate said.
Now the moderate Democrat is poised to potentially join the incoming Republican administration. Two sources confirmed to POLITICO that Ford has yet to meet with the president-elect, but that there have been some preliminary feelers put out about potential cabinet-level posts, including transportation secretary, via "emissaries." And Ford appears open to putting himself in the mix.
"He's happy doing what he's doing," a source close to Ford told POLITICO. "If the president called, then of course he would listen carefully."
Reached on his cell phone, Ford dodged questions about his future in a Trump administration.
"I'm on vacation with my family," he said when asked if he has had any conversations about a cabinet position such as transportation secretary. "I'd appreciate you calling me in the office on Monday."
Ford has toyed with restarting his political career since leaving the House. In 2010, Ford seriously considered challenging New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for Senate. But after launching a listening tour across the state, he ultimately decided not to run, claiming it would only splinter Democrats in the general election.
Trump, an adviser said, is keen on adding some Democrats to his cabinet, and Ford's made-for-TV looks could endear him to Trump (as could his regular appearances on "Morning Joe," which Trump tunes into regularly). The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump took into account that Mike Pence looked right out of "central casting" when he tapped him as his running mate, and that he used the same language to describe the slim and patrician Mitt Romney, whom he is reportedly considering for secretary of state.
Tax reform appears on track, but who's driving? Back
By Katy O'Donnell and Bernie Becker | 11/22/2016 05:03 AM EDT
Republicans are moving full speed ahead on the first major tax overhaul in over 30 years, even if it's not clear what the plan will actually look like under President-elect Donald Trump.
While House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has already started discussions with Trump's advisers on the contours of a potential reform bill, many policy aides on the Hill are in the dark about who in the Trump sphere is focused on the nitty-gritty of tax legislation.
Trump still has to pick someone to head up Treasury — and if the 1986 overhaul is a guide, the Treasury secretary could play a major role in shaping the eventual law. Yet taxes aren't the strong suit of some of the leading candidates for the job.
"We still don't know who the long-term vested interest folks will be — don't know who the Treasury secretary is, don't know [who] the assistant secretary for tax policy [will be]," said Sage Eastman, a former GOP Ways and Means aide now at Mehlman Castagnetti. "These could be people who have very big impacts. This is coming together, but anyone who claims to know definitively how it will play out should be laughed at."
Heritage Foundation fellow Stephen Moore, a Trump economic adviser, has made the rounds on the Hill, but aides are unsure of the role he actually plays in the transition, and Moore frequently hedges his public remarks by saying he's speaking for himself and not Trump.
Emerson lobbyist Jim Carter has been given the tax-reform portfolio for the transition, and Heritage tax analyst Curtis Dubay was named as a liaison to Treasury on Monday.
At this point, two possible routes for an overhaul are under discussion: a bipartisan package with infrastructure spending to lure Democrats, and a GOP-only reconciliation bill.
"There's a great deal of interest on transportation projects, regardless of party lines. And I think it's a very difficult item to take a pass on, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, or in the majority or minority," Eastman said.
Brady and Moore have both played up the desire for a bipartisan bill so far, with Moore saying last week that he'd told Trump to make tax reform "a jobs bill [and] include some infrastructure spending to get some buy-in from Democrats."
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he's open to working with the Trump administration on an infrastructure package, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hinted as much last week.
However, Pelosi hardened her line Monday. "While the president-elect has indicated an interest in infrastructure, we must insist on a bill that puts good-paying jobs for workers first — not one that is a corporate tax break disguised as an infrastructure bill," she said in a letter to fellow lawmakers.
Schumer also warned Sunday that the president-elect would need a lot more than tax reform to reach his campaign goal of $1 trillion worth of infrastructure investment.
"Look, it's not something that I'd take off the table," Schumer said on "Fox News Sunday." "And I did some negotiations with [House Speaker] Paul Ryan about this. But to get the kind of infrastructure money that Donald Trump is talking about, then you'd have to do a lot more than international tax reform to get it done. It just doesn't bring in the dollars you need."
The Ryan-Schumer talks may serve as a guide to the potential pitfalls ahead.
Those negotiations on a deal pairing highway funding with international tax reforms fell apart last fall over concerns about spending. Schumer pushed for more money for highway spending in order to secure the support of Democrats wary of giving multinational corporations a tax break — a tough sell for House Republicans. Ryan, meanwhile, maintained that such a deal should include broad reforms to the international tax code, rather than a one-time repatriation giveaway.
Some of the same issues persist today.
"That infrastructure bill has to have certain things for us to support it. It can't just be tax credits. That won't be enough," Schumer said during the Fox interview, noting he and Trump discussed infrastructure in a phone call.
Many House Republicans are leery of a repatriation-infrastructure deal, since mandatory or "deemed" repatriation — even at a significant discount from the current 35 percent corporate rate — would count as a tax increase for the companies that weren't planning to bring the earnings back at all. Funding a bonanza in new government spending with a tax increase is a nonstarter with conservatives.
Republicans are also discussing using budget reconciliation, which would short-circuit a filibuster in the Senate, to move tax reform if they can't get Democratic support — but reconciliation has its own drawbacks.
"Budget reconciliation is an imperfect tool at best for purpose of tax reform," PwC's Rohit Kumar, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said.
"At the end of the day the policy trade-offs may be just as difficult as those that would be required to get bipartisan support and there is a substantial risk that doing it in a partisan way would leave the tax-reform proposal on the same unstable political terrain that currently threatens the [Affordable Care Act]," Kumar added.
At the same time, there's plenty of reason for Republicans to lay the necessary groundwork for using reconciliation, given the partisan divide in Washington and how challenging tax reform can be under the best of circumstances.
"For a GOP staffer, it would be malpractice to not recommend budget reconciliation as a back-pocket option," said Russ Sullivan of McGuireWoods, a former staff director for Senate Finance Democrats. "There was a reason Republicans did so in 2001 for tax cuts, and Democrats did so in 2009 for health care reform: because you will probably need it."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), meanwhile, remains focused on corporate integration — an idea lobbyists dismiss as a largely academic exercise that Hatch will have to abandon now that Republicans have a real chance to enact reform.
At the moment, lobbyists and staffers are playing a bit of a holding game, ready to throw in ideas from previous tax-reform drafts and bills as soon as they get the green light.
"The Trump plan as much as we've seen has gotten a lot closer to the House plan over the last couple months," one tax lobbyist said. "But there's nobody in Trump land who really is focused on the tax world. The Treasury secretary isn't really going to be driving the tax-reform part — if you look at the people they're talking about for Treasury secretary, tax policy really isn't their arena."
That's true of rumored Treasury contenders Steven Mnuchin and Jonathan Gray, but another potential pick, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, has the policy chops and Hill ties — including a close relationship with Ryan — to make a significant imprint.
If Trump does struggle to fill slots with tax-policy experts early in his administration, lobbyists suggested, Ryan and Brady would jump into the void quickly to move tax reform on their terms.
EU set to trigger Norwegian Air arbitration case against U.S. Back
By Joshua Posaner | 11/22/2016 11:03 AM EDT
The European Commission is expected to start formal arbitration proceedings this week against the U.S. government over its failure to grant landing rights to a subsidiary of Norwegian Air, according to a source familiar with the case.
Once the formal notification of arbitration is started, both sides have 20 days to formally appoint an arbitrator, according to the 2007 bilateral open skies agreement.
Within a further 45 days, a third arbitrator should be picked by each side to act as president of the panel.
One name floated for the EU's arbitrator is Giorgio Sacerdoti, a professor of law at Bocconi University in Milan.
The dispute is centered on the U.S. Department of Transportation's refusal to approve a permit for the Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air, called Norwegian Air International, to fly into Boston and New York from Cork.
The dispute has been dragging on for two years, and in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in late July, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said arbitration was on the table "despite the patience and the goodwill that the EU has shown."
This first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Nov. 22, 2016.
Wall Street Journal: Amazon’s Holiday Deliveries Face Disruption From Pilot Strike
Amazon.com Inc.’s newly established in-house transportation network is facing a rocky start to its all-important holiday season.
Pilots contracted to deliver Amazon packages began picketing Tuesday because of a longstanding labor dispute, a sign of further potential disruptions through the end of the year at one of Amazon’s two airline partners.
The pilots are employed by Air Transport Services Group Inc., which alongside Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., was hired by Amazon to fly its packages in 40 dedicated jets by the end of 2018. About 16 will be in operation by the end of the year, according to the companies.
But the contracts with Amazon, which is beginning to build its own transportation network through these kinds of partnerships, have added more flights and staffing needs at ATSG and Atlas. The increased demand is upsetting pilots as they try to agree on new labor contracts with management.
In a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, ABX Air Inc., a subsidiary of ATSG, said Christmas shopping and deliveries have already been disrupted and could worsen if the industrial action continues. It also filed a request for a temporary restraining order. Atlas declined to comment on whether it was affected by the ATSG industrial action on Tuesday.
Amazon said it works with a variety of carriers and is “confident in our ability to serve customers.”
This holiday season is the first major test of whether Amazon can lessen its reliance on traditional delivery partners like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. In addition to the plane leasing, Amazon is putting more drivers on the road in vans branded with its logo to take on huge amounts of additional packages. It also wants to be a competitor to UPS and FedEx, according to people familiar with the matter.
Amazon has asked certain last-mile delivery partners to increase holiday capacity by as much as double in recent weeks—a difficult ask due to an already tight labor market and shortage of rental vehicles, according to people familiar with those requests. It is tied to Amazon’s move to consolidate deliveries to the same address into one vehicle, known as “Project Zero”, instead of routing them through several different carriers.
“It’s unrealistic to ask you to double your capacity at a week’s notice,” said an executive at one of those companies.
Amazon said that there hasn’t been a recent shift in its holiday forecasts or capacity needs.
Amazon determined that it needed to take its destiny into its own hands after holiday delivery problems in 2013, when bad weather followed by a flurry of last-minute online orders at retailers caused millions of packages to arrive after Christmas.
Since then, it has increased its reliance on the U.S. Postal Service, regional delivery companies and smaller, last-mile delivery companies, as well as its own citizen courier fleet of Flex drivers, as it built out its network of warehouses. Amazon started a trial in September last year with ATSG, initially leasing five Boeing Co. 767 freighter jets to link its distribution centers through the airline’s Wilmington, Ohio, hub.
However, Amazon also walked into longstanding labor disputes over pay and working conditions at some cargo airlines, though both ATSG and Atlas said they have had no problem recruiting extra pilots.
ABX’s legal filing said that the Tuesday action caused the cancellation of 26 flights and stranded more than 1.25 million pounds of cargo for its other major customer, Deutsche Post AG’s DHL.
If more flights are canceled due to the action, it “will result in millions of dollars of freight and packages not timely being delivered to retailers and homes,” the complaint said.
Aside from ATSG’s base in Ohio, the jets are operating up to eight daily flights for Amazon from airports that include the online-retail giant’s Seattle base, Stockton and Ontario in California, Rockford, Ill., Lehigh Valley Airport in Allentown, Pa., and Tampa, Fla.., according to people familiar with the network.