White House Budget Request Remains Under Microscope

Transportation System too Vulnerable, DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg Says
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Over the next few weeks, President Joe Biden’s latest budget request will continue to be examined by funding leaders in both chambers of Congress.

Proposals to improve safety and supply chain connectivity are among the many transportation themes the current administration aims to bolster in fiscal 2024. Secretary Pete Buttigieg, during a hearing with senators March 23, highlighted troubled programs and projects at his department.

“We have seen effects ranging from exhaustion of rail workers that labor organizations have warned could undermine safety, to strained supply chains requiring concentrated public sector attention and intervention,” he said in his opening remarks to the transportation appropriations subcommittee.

“The result,” he went on to explain, “is a transportation system today that is still too vulnerable, and when any part of it strains or breaks, the costs are borne by the American people — from the frustrations of millions of airline passengers to the terror felt by the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, after the derailment there.”

Funding for grants and certain programs linked to the mobility of motorists would see increases as part of an overall $6.9 trillion fiscal 2024 budget request from the White House.

Senators central to budget negotiations on Capitol Hill expressed support for enhancing the accounts for agencies dedicated to safety. These would include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, insisted: “We absolutely have to remember that keeping our families safe and our nation competitive is, of course, about defense spending, but it’s also important to remind ourselves that our families’ safety is depending on nondefense spending, as well.

Patty Murray (D-Wash.), left, Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), left, and Susan Collins (R-Maine) 

“When it comes to protecting our families, we have to make sure people and goods are getting safely and efficiently from point A to point B. And when it comes to keeping our economy competitive, we can’t compete with China without well-run ports who ship American goods out to the world.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s ranking member, sought to have colleagues focus on efforts that would ensure funding grants for major infrastructure projects.

Buttigieg and fellow members of the Cabinet soon will be appearing before House funding committees in defense of Biden’s budget plan. The GOP-led lower chamber has raised concerns about the federal debt and inflation. The White House and Democrats are a target for Republican leaders.

Texas Rep. Kay Granger


“Our country fell deeper into debt, and inflation went through the roof during the two years the Democrats controlled the House, Senate and White House. Throwing money at the problem didn’t help; something needs to change,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said March 22.

“Republicans are working on policies that will grow and strengthen our economy. We will also find ways to reduce spending without impacting our national defense, our commitment to veterans or the services that Americans depend on,” she continued. “We have the opportunity to take a hard look at department and agency budgets, find ways to reduce spending, and reform federal programs so we can prevent waste, fraud and abuse.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

March 28, 10 a.m.: The House Highways and Transit Subcommittee examines the implementation of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. Officials affiliated with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association are scheduled to testify.

March 28, 10 a.m.: A House Appropriations panel meets with the inspectors general at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation.

March 28, 10:15 a.m.: The House Committee on Education and the Workforce meets for a hearing titled, “Unleashing America’s Opportunities for Hiring and Employment.” ATA President Chris Spear is one of four witnesses.

March 29, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Advancing Next Generation Aviation Technologies.” Witnesses include Kevin Welsh, executive director at the Office of Environment and Energy at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Freight Corridor

Making sure that Georgia is on the mind.

Legislative Docket

A floor vote on House GOP leaders’ Lower Energy Costs Act, or H.R. 1, is expected this week. The bill is meant to facilitate access to domestic energy resources while speeding up the permitting process for large-scale projects.

Steve Scalise


It is the culmination of three House committees’ legislative work. Key provisions include improving domestic energy production, reforming aspects of the permitting process for private sector industries, undoing certain policies applied by the Biden administration, expediting energy infrastructure and exports, and accelerating production of critical minerals.

“For the last two years, President Biden and his extremist friends in Washington have waged a war on American energy, and hardworking families across the country are paying the price,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said soon after the bill’s introduction. “Gas and utility costs have skyrocketed to record highs, with the average American paying over 40% more for gas at the pump since President Biden took office.”


Educating policymakers about the trucking industry’s advancements in emissions reductions is among the goals of the recently formed Clean Freight CoalitionThe group will operate as a collective voice for trucking industry stakeholders. Members include American Trucking Associations, American Truck Dealers, National Tank Truck Carriers, Truckload Carriers Association and Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association.

“The trucking industry starts with ‘Yes,’ as we’ve demonstrated through massive emission reductions over the last three decades,” ATA President Chris Spear said on March 23. “To get to zero, we must be honest and transparent about the road ahead. Success depends on a national energy strategy that is inclusive of our industry — the most central and critical link in the supply chain.”

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A League of Their Own

The Last Word

Public safety transcends politics and district boundaries.

Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio) on March 17

Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio)

We publish Mondays when Congress is in session. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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