FHWA Nominee at Senate EPW This Week

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s team probably is about to get bigger.

This week, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the agency on federal highway policy is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Senate panel.

Shailen Bhatt, a veteran transportation manager picked to lead the Federal Highway Administration, will field questions from members of the Environment and Public Works Committee on Sept. 14. Bhatt’s extensive credentials have garnered praise from the panel’s leadership as well as stakeholders representing key aspects of the surface transportation landscape.



Shailen Bhatt

Bhatt

His confirmation, likely to occur this fall, would equip the agency with an experienced official at a time when Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation is managing the distribution of funds from the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Nearly half of that law’s funding is under USDOT’s purview.

“From the day he took office, President Biden has made rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure — and doing so in a way that reduces emissions, boosts resilience, improves safety and connects communities—a top priority. After much consideration, I’m delighted to see him nominate such a thoughtful, accomplished person to be the administrator of the FHWA,” Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in July.

Carper added. “I have a long history of working with Shailen, and he is an outstanding choice. I’m confident that he won’t need any on-the-job training and look forward to doing my part to expeditiously advance his nomination and confirm him for this important role.”

Bhatt, an executive at AECOM, was executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation and Cabinet secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation. The nominee, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, also held a leadership post at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

“In these roles, Bhatt spearheaded innovative solutions, collaborations and partnerships to support the delivery of safe, sustainable and cost-effective transportation systems for the 21st century,” according to background the White House provided. His confirmation would secure his place on Buttigieg’s leadership team.

The secretary recently embarked on a national tour to tout potential benefits from the IIJA’s enactment. Grants for projects of regional significance are a signature piece of USDOT’s operations.

“We are proud to support so many outstanding infrastructure projects in communities large and small, modernizing America’s transportation systems to make them safer, more affordable, more accessible and more sustainable,” Buttigieg said during a recent stop in New Mexico. “Using funds from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, this year we are supporting more projects than ever before.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Sept. 13, 8 a.m.: Axios hosts a panel on 2022 midterm elections. Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is among the speakers.

Sept. 13, 1 p.m.: The National Press Club hosts New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Sept. 13, 2:30 p.m.: The Urban Institute hosts a panel to examine data-driven and equity-centric transportation projects. Kirsten Mote, associate vice president and director of smart mobility planning at Modern Mobility Partners, is among the speakers.

Sept. 14, 10 a.m.: The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Cargo Preference: Compliance With and Enforcement of Maritime’s Buy American Laws.”

Sept. 14, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers the nomination of Shailen Bhatt to lead the Federal Highway Administration. Watch the hearing here.

Sept. 15, 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Recovery Update: Status of FEMA Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands Five Years After Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”

Sept. 15, 2 p.m.: The House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Rail Service Challenges and the Impact on Agriculture.”

Freight Corridor

It’s been said, whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting.

Legislative Docket

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

Senate Commerce Committee leaders recently introduced a Coast Guard authorizing bill that would dedicate funds for programs, such as shoreline modernization. The bill’s provisions would aim to improve connectivity along freight corridors.

“The Coast Guard keeps our maritime economy moving and our ports and waterways secure. This bill makes the investments needed to support that core mission and will also help the Coast Guard crack down on illegal fishing, improve oil spill response and bolster our nation’s presence in the Arctic,” said committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Midterms ’22

The 2022 midterms campaign has officially begun. And the national Democratic intelligentsia is reminding constituents of their string of legislative victories. From the White House and Cabinet members to congressional lawmakers on the ballot this November, the name of the game is to emphasize the enactment of the infrastructure, semiconductor and inflation reduction laws, among others.

Vice President Kamala Harris

Harris

“When I talk to people about what we’re doing, that we’re going to make sure, especially after the pandemic, that all families, all working families have access to affordable, high-speed internet, and they’re going to,” Vice President Kamala Harris told NBC News on Sept. 11. “People want to hear that.”

“Rebuilding America’s leadership in the semiconductor industry is a down payment on our future as a global leader,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “Under President Biden’s leadership, we are once again making things in America, revitalizing our manufacturing industry after decades of disinvestment and making the investments we need to lead the world in technology and innovation.”

Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy

House Republican leaders, meanwhile, are aiming for a takeover of the chamber. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the member poised to grab the speaker’s gavel in such a scenario.

The GOP’s messaging primarily consists of a critique of Biden’s economic agenda.

“Democrats — more than any other majority in history — are addicted to spending other people’s money.”

He continued, “I trust the American people. I know it is the people who will render the ultimate verdict.”

Favorite Video

A Pelican State update courtesy of Sen. Cassidy.

Favorite Tweet

ATRI on the radar.

The Last Word

For 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II has been a source of strength and stability for one of America’s greatest allies.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Sept. 8

Maine Sen. Susan Collins

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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