Congressional Leaders Working to Avert Shutdown

Operations Could be Affected Starting Oct. 1
Capitol Agenda Eugene Mulero

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WASHINGTON — When the clock strikes midnight Oct. 1, the federal government is bound to experience a partial shutdown if Congress doesn’t sign off on legislation that would do otherwise.

Thus far, high-profile disagreements within the House Republican caucus point to the real potential for Washington to endure a shutdown. With just a couple of days before a shutdown is triggered, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has yet to persuade every element of his conference to avoid federal funding disruptions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is readying a short-term funding bill designed to temporarily avert the partial shutdown. However, the Senate strategy lacks significant bipartisan backing.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been outlining the impact a shutdown would have on the country’s mobility grid.

“In the event of a shutdown, we would have to immediately stop so many important activities in the Department of Transportation, like training air traffic controllers,” the secretary told ABC News on Sept. 24. “After everything we’ve been through, after all of the disruptions to air traffic — to air travel that we experienced last year — this year, we finally see cancellations and delays back to normal. They’re actually a little below where they were before COVID[-19]. This would be a reversal that nobody wants, nobody asked for.”

Days earlier, Buttigieg told reporters on Capitol Hill: “A shutdown would be a really difficult situation.”

Transportation stakeholders are sounding the alarm as well.

“We strongly urge expeditious passage of a full-year Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill … to avoid funding disruption — whether due to a lapse in appropriations or through a series of continuing resolutions (CR) — that can impact this important work of steadily investing in our national transportation system,” the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials wrote to congressional leaders this month.

“While we understand the need for a CR prior to the end of the fiscal year — and strongly ask that such a CR pass before Sept. 30 — it is vitally important that Congress reaches agreement on the full-year THUD bill and send it to the president quickly,” the association added.

Neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled a final vote on fiscal 2024 transportation funding legislation. Both legislative versions would dedicate nearly $1 billion for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), addressing the Congressional Family Business Caucus last week, acknowledged Congress traditionally has been partisan, “but it’s nothing compared to what it is today.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Sept. 28, 10 a.m.: The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Clean Water Infrastructure Financing: State and Local Perspectives and Recent Developments.” Witnesses include Lori Johnson on behalf of the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities and Todd Swingle on behalf of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. Watch the hearing here.

Freight Corridor

Fed funds flow to the Garden State.

Legislative Docket

Legislation aiming to block efforts designed to prevent the sale of internal combustion engines was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives. By a 222-190 vote Sept. 14, the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act advanced to the Senate. Sponsored by Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.), the bill would restrict the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing waivers specific to the sale or use of new motor vehicles equipped with the traditional engines, including diesel units.

John Joyce


Republican sponsors explained the measure would preserve the integrity of consumer choice as well as secure marketplace competition. Central to the bill is responding to California lawmakers targeting the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Joyce told colleagues Sept. 14, “We cannot expect vehicle manufacturers to build one car in California and another one for Pennsylvania. In areas like my district in central and western Pennsylvania, electric vehicles are unable to perform in the mountainous terrain and lose range in high heat and in extreme cold.”

A version of the bill has been introduced in the Senate. The upper chamber’s Democratic leadership has not signaled the bill’s consideration in committee.

“We cannot allow California’s costly and extreme Green New Deal agenda to eliminate consumer choice for hundreds of millions of American families,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a sponsor, said shortly after the House vote.


Senators are renewing their calls for a floor vote on freight rail safety legislation. Months after the Commerce Committee advanced the comprehensive measure, panel Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is leading a push to advance the bill through Congress.

Sen. Maria Cantwell


“The Feb. 3, 2023, Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which resulted in the burning of six vinyl chloride tank cars and forced the evacuation of approximately 2,000 nearby residents, was a reminder of the risks posed by hazardous materials transportation,” Cantwell and her colleagues indicated last week. “Class I freight railroads had the highest derailment rate in the past decade … more than 43,000 rail workers have been injured.”

Sherrod Brown


The committee-passed Railway Safety Act, designed to promote the safe transport of freight along rail lines, targets guidance at agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“We built a broad, bipartisan coalition that agree on these common-sense safety measures that will finally hold big railroad companies like Norfolk Southern accountable,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in May. He is a co-sponsor with Ohio’s J.D. Vance (R).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has yet to schedule a vote on the rail bill. A House version has not advanced to the floor.

Favorite Video

Union workers are striking, and POTUS will walk among them.

Favorite Tweet

The Equality State making headlines for transportation upgrades.

The Last Word

California continues to play a leading role in our nation’s rapidly expanding space industry.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Sept. 15.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)

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

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