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June 22, 2022 5:44 PM, EDT

Senate Panel Approves Maritime Administration Bill

Capitol Agenda by Eugene Mulero

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The Senate Commerce Committee on June 22 easily approved a bill to update operations at the Maritime Administration.

The Maritime Administration Reauthorization Act would authorize funding for the maritime workforce.

It also would back programs associated with infrastructure networks, research and development and fleet sustainability. The bill’s full Senate consideration has yet to be scheduled.

What's in the Bill?

Per a summary provided by the committee, the bill would dedicate:

$750 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program

$318 million for the Maritime Security Program

$120 million for the Tanker Security Program

$112.8 million for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

$80.7 million for state maritime academies

$40 million for the Small Shipyard Grant Program

$15 million for the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance Program

“This bill makes critical investments in America’s maritime workforce, shipyards and port infrastructure that are key to keeping our supply chains moving,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said this month. 
“I am glad to support this bill, which would improve our marine highway system, help protect against sexual assault and harassment within our merchant fleet and at the Merchant Marine Academy, support maritime education and reauthorize the port infrastructure development program,” added co-sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the panel’s ranking member.

Marad Bill by Transport Topics on Scribd

Senate Panel to Vote on FMCSA Nominee June 22

Prior to leaving town for the July 4 recess, a Senate panel intends to approve President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the federal trucking agency as House Democrats aim to pass a fiscal 2023 transportation funding bill this summer.

The Senate Commerce Committee on June 22 plans to vote on the nomination of Robin Hutcheson for the top job at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The nominee, serving as the agency’s acting head, during her confirmation hearing highlighted the trucking workforce’s contributions to the economy amid supply chain woes. (June 22 update: Panel approves Hutcheson; nomination moves to Senate floor.)

“Now, more than ever, Americans are acutely tuned in to how our goods get to our homes — from the flour for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in — we all have a better understanding that it probably came on a truck,” she told the panel this month. “People, in this case, drivers, are the most important part of the industry. It is a difficult job, and men and women have been working long hours to literally keep our economy rolling in the face of unprecedented challenges.”

Robin Hutcheson

Hutcheson

During exchanges with members of the committee, Hutcheson also highlighted recently approved workforce programs meant to address an industrywide shortage of drivers. The programs, such as an advisory board focused on recruiting and retaining women, were included in the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The aim of the soon-to-be-unveiled board is to provide recommendations and respond to an array of workplace concerns. The concerns may pertain to career advancement, safety risks, workplace harassment and instances of lack of mentorship. Additionally, the board would look to identify ways women’s role in trucking could be amplified. It would do so via a series of reviews and reports meant as recommendations for regulators and policymakers. As Hutcheson put it, “Its role will be to identify barriers to women entering and staying in the driving profession.”

Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) touted Hutcheson’s record.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) praised Hutcheson's experience from positions in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. (Senate Commerce Committee)

“She brings tremendous on-the-ground experiences,” the senator said. “Strong federal leadership is needed as the nation faces a tragic rise in the highway fatalities, including a dramatic increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks.”

A favorable committee vote on her nomination would advance her to the Senate floor for consideration.

Background about the nominee is posted on the White House’s website.

“Prior to being appointed to the Biden-Harris administration, Hutcheson was the director of Public Works for the city of Minneapolis, overseeing a team of 1,100 people across nine divisions including drinking water, surface waters and sewers, solid waste and recycling, fleet management and all transportation functions. Prior to her appointment in Minneapolis, she served as the transportation director for Salt Lake City, working to improve all modes of transportation.”

Senate Commerce Committee Questionnaire for FMCSA Nominee by Transport Topics on Scribd

Meanwhile, Democrats on the House side, while still searching for quick fixes to record-high gas prices, have expressed optimism about the prospects of fiscal 2023 funding legislation. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pointed to July as the window of opportunity for the measures’ floor consideration. (House leaders aim to wrap up the appropriations process prior to their August recess.)

Specifically, the fiscal 2023 transportation bill will be considered during a House subcommittee hearing June 23. Its full committee consideration is scheduled for June 30. Most of the federal government is operating under funding authority that expires at the end of September. Congressional funding leaders are tasked with reaching an agreement on the bills before the start of the new fiscal year.

DeLauro

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) argued her colleagues’ bills would “continue to help meet the needs of working people, lower costs, and address many of the major challenges we face at home and abroad.”

Senators have yet to schedule votes on their versions of the funding measures.

The White House budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation calls for the approval of $142 billion. That consists of $23.6 billion for aviation modernization, $4.45 billion for transit projects, $3 billion for safety programs at the Federal Highway Administration, $1.5 billion for infrastructure construction grants and $230 million for certain port projects. As part of the request, FMCSA’s safety operations and programs would receive $367.5 million. FMCSA’s safety grants division would receive $506.1 million.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

June 22, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Robin Hutcheson to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Watch the hearing here

June 23, 4 p.m.: A House appropriations subcommittee considers a fiscal 2023 transportation bill.

Freight Corridor

For an overview on infrastructure affairs, the Veep made a stop in the Keystone State.

Legislative Docket

The House transportation panel recently approved legislation meant to expedite access to federal disaster assistance. The bill looks to prioritize long-term housing programs for individuals who were affected by natural disasters.

Per the bill, “After the declaration of a major disaster, the president may direct the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide, subject to amounts made available from appropriations, assistance necessary for meeting unmet needs as a result of such disaster.”

A floor vote on the bill has yet to be scheduled.

Buzz

Senate Democrats are signaling the potential for tackling fuel-centric legislation ahead of the midterm elections, and all eyes are on Senate leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to determine the timing of bills meant to draw more scrutiny to the gas industry, as well as attempt to offer relief to consumers at the pump.

Their House counterparts intend to debate similar legislation this summer. Congressional approval of a gas tax holiday is unlikely, sources tell us. Republicans, said to be on track to make gains in the House and Senate this election cycle, are pointing to Biden’s policies as the reason for rising costs.

Favorite Video

We simply can’t stop talking about that oil.

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A world of possibilities with regards to resilience.

The Last Word

We are so pleased to provide resources that help reach into the forgotten corners of our communities to ensure no one is left behind.

Federal Transit Administration chief Nuria Fernandez on June 16

FTA Administrator Nura Fernandez

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

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