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June 11, 2018 12:30 PM, EDT
Capitol Agenda for the Week of June 11: A Rare Sighting
White rhino Getty Images

The Beltway’s equivalent of spotting a white rhino in the wild occurred last week on Capitol Hill. The leadership of the U.S. Senate announced the chamber intends to remain in session for most of August. (Not the entire month, of course.)

RoadSigns: A Transport Topics podcast

In our debut episode of RoadSigns, we ask: What does the move toward autonomy mean for the truck driver? Hear a snippet from Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

“I’ve canceled the August recess. We have a lot of important work to do,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters June 5.

Debates and possible votes on President Donald Trump’s nominees, as well as advancing fiscal 2019 funding bills, likely will dominate the summer workload.

For the freight industry, this unusual legislative window offers a rare opportunity to deliberate key transportation measures, such as aviation reauthorizing legislation and a bill that would outline a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles. The aviation measure includes a provision that would ensure nationwide uniformity for meal-and-rest-break rules for truckers. An autonomous vehicle policy bill with input from every mode has the potential of enhancing highway safety. Both measures, however, have yet to come up for air on the floor of the upper chamber. A few observers suspect their passage could occur after the midterm elections.

Bill Shuster

Shuster

Meanwhile, Republican appropriators have indicated the transportation funding bills are “the” infrastructure bills acting as down payments for the president’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal. McConnell has mentioned the funding bills, yet he has expressed very little interest in calling up a long-term infrastructure package this year. On the House side, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leader Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) insists he’ll lead a debate on an infrastructure bill. Shuster, who belongs to the chamber that plans to take full advantage of its summer vacation, will need backing from the Senate to get any piece of legislation across Pennsylvania Avenue. As Congress continues to avoid the tough votes on a long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund, the infrastructure funding debate looks more and more like a Beltway white rhino.

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times EDT):

June 12, 7:45 a.m.: Politico hosts a conversation with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

June 12, 1 p.m.: The Department of Labor meets to solicit comments and suggestions from the railroad and trucking industries on whistleblower protection provisions.

June 13, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing on autonomous vehicle technology.

June 13, 1 p.m.: The Electric Drive Transportation Association hosts a workshop on “Building the Modern Grid with E-Mobility.” Scheduled keynote speaker is Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

June 14, 1 p.m.: The president’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council meets.

June 15, noon: The New America hosts a panel discussion titled, “Harnessing Satellite Spectrum for Broadband: Will Incumbents Sell, Stay or Share?”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

ELD: Legislation a Senate panel approved June 7 directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to connect with trucking and agriculture industry executives, federal policymakers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address the concerns livestock haulers have raised about electronic logging devices.

CUTTING EDGE: Daimler Trucks announced it is establishing an Automated Truck Research and Development Center here at its North American headquarters to test and validate automated driving technologies.

WHITE HOUSE: The deregulatory nature of the Trump administration threatens delay or elimination of several Obama-era trucking-related regulations, but those that remain on the books will continue to be aggressively enforced, panelists said at a law seminar here.

ROAD TO NTDC:

Don’t mess with Texas.

Autan/Flickr

BUZZ:

The recent allocation of INFRA grants disappointed a few lawmakers from Northeast urban centers, insiders tell Transport Topics.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

To borrow a phrase from a competitor, this story is so juicy it’s finger lickin’ good.

New York Magazine article

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“The federal response, once again, was at a historic proportion. We’re continuing to work with the people of Puerto Rico and do the best we can to provide federal assistance, particularly working with the governor there in Puerto Rico. And we’ll continue to do so.” — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on June 5

FAVORITE VIDEO:

Trumpworld...

FAVORITE TWEET:

City of Brotherly Love

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda. We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.