Capitol Agenda for the Week of July 23: Come for the Plan, Stay for the Hope

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao by C-Span via YouTube

Philosopher Andy Dufresne once said, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Our secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, need not rewatch “Shawshank” on TNT this weekend, because she’s nailed that film’s ethos.

At the Brainstorm Tech 2018 forum last week, the secretary carved out several minutes from her grueling schedule to update us about President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. You may recall that the plan’s privatization pitch failed to resonate in the halls of Congress after debuting Feb. 12.

“We haven’t given up hope now,” the secretary said July 17. “You know, we’re still continuing discussions and, again, how do you pay for it is the toughest question.”

“So, there are many ways of paying for the infrastructure proposal, and I would say the majority of them are not ones that probably I can get consensus within this audience,” she continued. “What we have suggested in the department is to allow the private sector to invest, to finance, help finance, public infrastructure.

“In 26 states in our country right now, there are restrictions on the private sector coming in to invest in public infrastructure.”

Chao’s message of hope must be reassuring for the thousands of stakeholders and proponents of modern infrastructure awaiting a long-term plan of action from federal leaders. However, her optimism notwithstanding, it is the president and U.S. Senate leaders who continue to rain on the promise of realizing an infrastructure measure this year. It wasn’t long ago that Trump told supporters he would focus on advancing an infrastructure bill once the November midterms wrap up. Senate transportation chairmen echo the president’s strategy.

But, look out, there is a flicker of hope coming from the House.

The chamber’s top transportation policymaker, outgoing Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), appears unable to give up on the dream of debating a long-term infrastructure bill (before the midterms). If he actually manages to hold a robust debate on an infrastructure measure this year, Shuster would not just be honoring the politics of hope. He also would embody that other Dufresne axiom: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”


July 24, 10 a.m.: The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation meets for an update on Coast Guard acquisition programs.

July 24, 10 a.m.: The Ways and Means Committee hosts a hearing titled, “Product exclusion process for Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.”

July 25, 2:15 p.m.: The Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness explores ways to put American boots on Mars.

July 25, 3:30 p.m.: The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hosts a roundtable on the impact of the Jones Act on consumer prices in Puerto Rico.

July 26, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee considers the nominations of Rick Dearborn to be a director of Amtrak’s board of directors and Martin Oberman to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board.


ALLIANCE: Daimler Trucks North America is targeting 24-hour turnaround times for truck repairs at its dealerships and is expanding its aftermarket component business as it moves to boost its parts and repair business, company executives said. 

FREIGHT TRAINS: CSX Corp. reported second-quarter net earnings of $877 million, or $1.01 a share, a rise of 72% from net earnings of $501 million, or 55 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. 

TOMORROWLAND: The nation’s largest for-hire carriers are embracing new technologies and doing more to foster innovation with the goal of reducing the cost of moving freight and providing new service capabilities. 


ABF Freight’s Tim McElwaney has family and Georgia on his mind.


DJ G in the place to be takes his one-and-twos from the White House to the Stonepeak


Proponents of F4A are eagerly awaiting the Senate to consider the provision in the coming days.


For this entire school year, children in the Virgin Islands have operated on a four-hour-shift system because so many of our public schools were compromised; so that children had to share facilities and only participated in school curricular activities for four hours during the day.

Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), at a hearing of the House Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee on July 18



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