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March 12, 2018 1:45 PM, EDT

Capitol Agenda for the Week of March 12: 500 Days of Summer

Speaker of the House  Paul Ryan Ryan visits The Home Depot Store Support Center in Atlanta to discuss infrastructure. (Speaker Paul Ryan via YouTube)

With the country fixated on college basketball, Speaker Paul Ryan shed light on his vision for infrastructure policy.

Addressing employees at The Home Depot Store Support Center in Atlanta on March 8, Ryan (R-Wis.) laid out a bold infrastructure agenda. Five, possibly six bills would be considered. Each measure would focus on a specific mode. Aviation legislation, for instance, would address runways and airports. Legislation on surface transportation would cover highways, and bridges. Another bill would look to enhance connectivity along the country’s waterways. And so forth. The approval process for modernization projects would be streamlined, and the private sector would be brought in to play a key role in funding.

When does Ryan envision this happening: “We’re going to start in about a week and a half with our infrastructure bills. And move into the summer passing these bills."

The speaker’s plan sounds nice. However, once the omnibus funding bill reaches the White House this month for the president’s signature, lawmakers will turn their attention to the midterm elections. That’s the reason why Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the chamber’s top transportation policymaker, suggested a different timeline. Addressing the country’s transportation directors Feb. 28, Shuster promoted the notion of passing an infrastructure bill shortly after the midterms.

Complicating matters is figuring out how to fund infrastructure long-term. A federal highway account backed by revenue from fuel taxes will become insolvent by 2021.

Ryan is staunchly opposed to raising fuel taxes, a position Shuster hasn’t ruled out and the president has endorsed, privately. Stakeholders, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, support it. “Many say that it is politically impossible to raise the gas tax,” the chamber’s Ed Mortimer told lawmakers March 7. “This is a fallacy.”

THE WEEK AHEAD: (all times EDT)

March 12, 6 p.m.: The National Press Club’s Journalism Institute hosts a discussion on “Dispelling the Gathering Clouds,” which will focus on governments’ efforts to impede the rights of the media. Speakers include CQ Roll Call senior reporter John Donnelly.

March 13, 9 a.m.: The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on Venezuela’s oil industry.

March 13, 10:30 a.m.: The Business Roundtable holds a conference call on the first-quarter 2018 CEO economic outlook survey results.

March 13, 2:30 p.m.: The Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee meets for “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: State and Local Transportation Needs.” Witnesses will include Kyle Schneweis, director of the Nebraska Department of Transportation; Jordan Kass, president of managed services in the TMC division at C.H. Robinson Worldwide; and Jo Strang, senior vice president for safety and regulatory policy at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

March 14, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee hosts a hearing on infrastructure funding with secretaries Elaine Chao of Transportation, Wilbur Ross of Commerce, Alexander Acosta of Labor, Sonny Perdue of Agriculture, and Rick Perry of Energy.

March 14, 11 a.m.: The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee meets to review the president’s fiscal 2019 budget request.

March 14, 2 p.m.: The House Transportation and Protective Security Subcommittee meets to review the president’s fiscal 2019 budget request. Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske is scheduled to testify.

March 15, 8 a.m.: The Atlantic Council holds a discussion on “Strategic Oil Product Stockholding: International Experience and U.S. Prospects.” Speakers will include Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

March 15, 9:30 a.m.: Secretary Chao will testify before the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on the president’s fiscal 2019 budget request.

March 15, 10 a.m.: The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee meets for: “America’s Water Resources Infrastructure: Projects and Policies.”

March 15, 12:30 p.m.: The National Press Club holds a newsmaker luncheon address with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

March 15, 5:30 p.m.: Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will deliver the State of the District address.

March 16, 10 a.m.: The Brookings Institution holds a discussion on “How to Create a Better, More Efficient Approach to Infrastructure.” Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Derek Kan is among the participants.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

ELDs: Several lawmakers are calling for an extension of the electronic logging device waiver granted to livestock haulers, who were given temporary reprieve from the mandate in late December. 

TRUST FUND: Members of a House transportation subcommittee seem largely in agreement that the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and near-insolvent Highway Trust Fund are in desperate need of fixes — and quickly. 

UBER: Uber Technologies Inc. announced that its self-driving commercial trucks now are conducting regular freight hauls in Arizona through the Uber Freight network.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Reason’s wisdom, “When you don’t control the levers of power, it’s a lot easier to escape blame for not following through on your promises.” 

BUZZ:

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) speaking to reporters March 7 about the gas tax: “There’s too many members, and we can talk about that in hearings about how members need to do this or do that, or that nobody’s ever lost an election. But there are a lot of members out there that are philosophically opposed to increasing the tax. … I know the speaker [Ryan] likes the idea of a [vehicle-miles-traveled fee]. I haven’t talked to the majority leader [Kevin McCarthy].”

FAVORITE QUOTE:

No one — for the gutless wonders I work with — no one has lost their election.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), March 7, opining on the consequences state officials have experienced after voting to increase fuel taxes

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio

FAVORITE VIDEO:

He said. She said.

FAVORITE TWEET:

Quid pro quo?

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