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In July of last year, President Donald Trump congratulated the transportation policymakers in the U.S. Senate for a job well done.
The Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Republicans, had just advanced the first update of the 2015 highway law known as the FAST Act. That law expires this fall.
“Senate is working hard on America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act. Will have BIG IMPACT on our highways and roads all across our Nation. Interest strong from Republicans and Democrats. Do I hear the beautiful word, BIPARTISAN? Get it done. I am with you!” the president tweeted July 30.
In the months since that tweet, senators who sit on the other transportation and funding panels have not followed up on EPW’s five-year highway bill. Missing from the bill are provisions directed at the Highway Trust Fund, commercial transportation and transit.
EPW’s counterparts in the House also wrapped up 2019 without scheduling consideration of their version of the reauthorization. Democrats who run that committee have signaled the potential for taking up the FAST Act reauthorization in the coming weeks. (There’s an expectation climate-centric policy will be included in the measure.)
And, the Trump White House spent most of the second half of last year consumed by a wall along the border with Mexico, impeachment and tensions with foreign leaders. After the House impeached Trump in December, the Senate’s leadership is pressing for a quick trial because they say they want to get back to the people’s business. Several senators also have expressed support for considering the new NAFTA deal known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the House advanced in December.
Around the country, governors will start delivering their annual addresses to residents. Rebuilding infrastructure and addressing climate change may get major mentions from several state leaders.
The president, on the other hand, has not been engaging in a robust debate about the country’s transportation and infrastructure network. Matters that consumed him late last year persist.
Congress & the President should not be wasting their time and energy on a continuation of the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax when we have so many important matters pending. 196 to ZERO was the Republican House vote, & we got 3 Dems. This was not what the Founders had in mind!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2020
One of the founders, James Madison, highlighted infrastructure, as he explained in The Federalist Papers: “Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.” (According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 47,000 bridges are structurally deficient.)
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Jan. 7, 10 a.m.: The American Petroleum Institute hosts a conference call about its 2020 State of American Energy report.
Jan. 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets to review the Clean Water Act.
Jan. 9, 9 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts its State of American Business forum to highlight trends and concerns across the business sector.
Jan. 9, 10 a.m.: The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020.”
Jan. 10, noon: The Economic Club hosts a discussion on about the auto industry. Ola Kallenius, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and chief of its Mercedes-Benz Cars unit, joins the conversation.
It’s a presidential election year, and not much legislating happens on Capitol Hill. Yet key stakeholders tell us there’s a chance, however slim, Congress advances a highway reauthorization measure ahead of the FAST Act’s expiration in the fall.
In Case You Missed It
The U.S. DOT has a new money guy. His name: John Kramer. The Senate confirmed Kramer for the post of chief financial officer in November. He had been deputy assistant secretary for budget and finance in the Office of the Secretary. Secretary Elaine Chao appointed him to the Northeast Corridor Commission, and he previously worked at Philip Morris International for two decades.
“The CFO’s office must help lead the way by innovating its own legacy systems and methodology with the latest systems and related technology to improve performance without compromising oversight,” he told senators.
Transportation nerds of the world will unite next week for the Transportation Research Board’s 99th meeting. “A Century of Progress: Foundation for the Future” is the theme for the event, which will be held Jan. 12-16. Secretary Chao is scheduled to deliver keynote remarks Jan. 15.
What is TPM?
Politics is a full-contact sport.
The Last Word
Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, FMCSA has been laser-focused on safety and reducing crashes involving large trucks. The agency’s accomplishments reflect the Trump Administration’s commitment to improving safety on our roadways, reducing regulatory burdens and strengthening the nation’s motor carrier industry.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration acting administrator Jim Mullen on Dec. 30.
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