December 3, 2018 5:00 PM, EST

Capitol Agenda for the Week of Dec. 3: The Year of Infrastructure Weeks?

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) stands behind President Trump and next to Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. (Ron Sachs/Bloomberg News)

With the midterms over, infrastructure appears to have eclipsed immigration as the policy mission du jour in Washington. Turn on a cable news show, and a federal lawmaker (most likely an incoming freshman) or a veteran pundit will declare that next year we’ll live each week as if it were “Infrastructure Week.”

Nevermind that Republicans in control of the federal government since 2017 were unable to ensure the solvency of highway and transit funds for years to come. The Beltway intelligentsia is certain the elusive long-term infrastructure funding bill President “Builder-in-Chief” promised to deliver will be approved during the next Congress. Transportation leaders agree.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)

Barrasso by Al Drago/Bloomberg News

“I think it was Henry Ford [who] used to say, ‘If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,’” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Transport Topics after the Environment and Public Works Committee brought in three infrastructure stakeholders on Nov. 28 to strategize funding for urban and rural projects. The top Democrat on EPW is among a cadre of senior lawmakers, including EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who are beaming with optimism about the GOP-led Senate’s ability to clear long-term transportation funding legislation within the next two years. The Senate will have help from a Democrat-led House and President Trump leading the sales pitch to the American people.

“I think we can. And we demonstrated it in this committee in the last two years that we can put together bipartisan water transportation infrastructure legislation that gained 99 votes here [in the Senate] and I think it was passed unanimously in the House,” Carper emphasized. “If we can do that kind of work with the water infrastructure, there’s, I think, there’s hope we can work on roads, highways, bridges in a similarly constructive way. This committee has a history of working together, [we] have a good bipartisan spirit.”

Joe Biden used to say, ‘All politics is personal.’ And we got a good rapport here and we’ll build on that.

— Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Carper noted his friendly relationship with the panel’s Republican leadership and he said he directed his transportation infrastructure staffers to meet with their counterparts prior to the start of the next Congress.

“Joe Biden used to say, ‘All politics is personal.’ And we got a good rapport here and we’ll build on that.”

Besides optimism, a sense of urgency will need to take hold of Carper’s colleagues if they are to advance some type of multiyear highway bill by the time the current one expires in two years. Lawmakers have acknowledged there isn’t time to waste. State departments of Transportation also tell Congress they can’t afford to delay big ticket highway projects simply because they lack a reliable funding partner in the federal government.

For Carper, Henry Ford’s philosophy gives meaning to the situation. His colleagues on Capitol Hill probably could achieve a similar understanding from Trump supporter Kanye West, “Time is a myth. All we have is now. All we have is today.”

All we need is funding, funding, funding.

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times Eastern):

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh


Dec. 4, 8:30 a.m.: Fedscoop hosts its Public Sector Innovation Summit. Speakers include CIA CIO John Edwards; Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh; and Dave Shive, CIO of the General Services Administration.

Dec. 4, 9 a.m.: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy hosts a meeting of the National Petroleum Council. Speakers include Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Dec. 4, 9:30 a.m.: U.S. DOT’s Office of the Secretary hosts a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure.

Dec. 4, 10 a.m.: American University’s School of Public Affairs’ Women and Politics Institute holds a news conference and discussion at the National Press Club titled, “She Votes, She Leads: Women and the Midterm Elections.”

Dec. 4, 2 p.m.: U.S. DOT hosts a meeting of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation advisory board.

Dec. 4, 3:30 p.m.: The Atlantic Council holds a panel discussion titled, “Future Calling: Infrastructure Development in Central Asia.”

Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m.: The Newseum holds a panel discussion titled, “The Search for Balance in the Digital Era.” Speakers include Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).

Dec. 5: National day of mourning for President George H. W. Bush.

Casket of President George H.W. Bush

Joint services military honor guards place the flag-draped casket of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush on the Lincoln catafalque during a memorial service at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 3, 2018. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

Dec. 5, 8:30 a.m.: The Atlantic hosts a summit on infrastructure. Speakers include House Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

Dec. 6, 9 a.m.: The Cato Institute hosts a conference titled, “The Jones Act: Charting a New Course After a Century of Failure.”

Dec. 6, 11 a.m.: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine unveils a congressionally mandated report about the Interstate Highway System to recommend options and funding opportunities for infrastructure.

Dec. 7: Funding authority for several federal agencies expires.


CLINIQUE: After years in limbo, a final rule became effective in November allowing medical examiners — in consultation with a truck driver’s treating clinician — to decide whether an insulin-treated diabetic driver is qualified to get behind the wheel.

HAUL NO: The decision by General Motors to cease production at five of its factories in the United States and Canada will have consequences for trucking companies that serve those plants.

LAST FRONTIER: Incoming Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has announced that John MacKinnon will serve as the next commissioner of the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities.


Senate legislation regarding autonomous vehicle policy may hitch a ride on the omnibus, insiders tell Transport Topics.


Si Se Puede. Remembering former transportation appropriator, the late Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.).

Arizona Republic article


I have known Sam Graves since I came to Congress, and in that time I have learned that no one has as much knowledge and passion for the issues before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as Sam.

— Outgoing T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on Nov. 30. Graves was selected as the committee ranking member for the next Congress.

Rep. Bill Shuster


Will the real H.W. please stand up?


Happy Hanukkah

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