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April 29, 2019 1:30 PM, EDT

Optimism High Ahead of Leaders' Infrastructure Meeting at White House

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) by Legyndaryinc Studios via YouTube

Members of Congress return to Capitol Hill to find their leaders pursuing an agenda that’s not about immigration or impeachment politics.

President Donald Trump is expected to break from his Mueller report victory lap for a meeting April 30 with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) to tackle infrastructure.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

The agenda will consist of sketching out a timeline for considering an infrastructure measure that would flirt with a $2 trillion price tag. (Update, May 1: Trump, congressional Democrats reach agreement on $2 trillion price tag for infrastructure bill) The comprehensive legislation would need to be capable of garnering bipartisan backing in the House and Senate. And for that to happen, “real” money must be in play, to borrow a tagline from House Democrats on the transportation panel. In a recent wide-ranging interview with Transport Topics, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the House’s top highways and transit authorizer, did not downplay the moment.

“If there was ever a time for a president, not to mention our own committee, to part the waters, as it were, on infrastructure, this is the time,” she said. “We need to re-envision everything about transportation and infrastructure.” (We’ll have more about our conversation with Holmes Norton in the May 6 issue.)

With Trump indicating he would welcome progress on an infrastructure bill, and Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressing her party’s readiness on the matter, both sides are captivating the transportation community. From truckers and cyclists to labor unions and the business class, nearly every transportation user is clamoring for policy that would rebuild and modernize the intricate networks of freight and commuter corridors. After all, the country’s infrastructure earned a “D+” grade in 2017 from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“We need Congress to act, whatever the political environment is,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure Ed Mortimer told TT this month. “We elect men and women to Congress to represent the American people. We elect them to do things on behalf of the American people. This is one of those key things we believe they should do.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern):

Spotlight Hearing

May 1: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hosts “Member Day.” Authorizers will remind the panel’s leaders about concerns back in their districts, with an emphasis on greater investments for big-ticket projects. Several top Republicans are expected to remind colleagues at the hearing that a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) funding approach for infrastructure projects would be more ideal than raising fuel taxes.

April 29, 10 a.m.: The Newseum hosts a panel titled, “Influence Across America: The Rise of State and Local Power and the Impact of Digital Media.” Participants include Angela Greiling Keane with Politico; Ernestine Benedict, chief communications officer at Zero to Three; Howard Walters, program and evaluation officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Anthony Shop, co-founder and chief of strategy at the National Digital Roundtable.

April 29, 3 p.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Trucking Associations and AFL-CIO host a media availability via teleconference.

April 29, 2 p.m.: The Environmental and Energy Study Institute hosts a briefing titled, “What Can Congress Do to Build Better Buildings?” Participants include William Fisk, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Ryan Colker, vice president for innovation at the International Code Council; and Randy Burkett, president and principal designer at Randy Burkett Lighting Design Inc.

April 30, 8 a.m.: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. hosts a panel a discussion on the status of the country’s financial health. Participants include Steve Ballmer, founder of USAFacts and former CEO of Microsoft; and David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club.

Sen. Ed Markey

Markey

April 30, 8:30 a.m.: The Council on Foreign Relations hosts Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce Committee.

April 30, 9 a.m.: The Washington Post hosts a panel discussion about the Mueller report with Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

April 30, 10 a.m.: The House Financial Services Committee hosts a hearing on housing infrastructure. Participants include Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition; Adrianne Todman, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; Steven Lawson, chairman of the Lawson Cos., representing the National Association of Home Builders; and Daryl Carter, founder, chairman and CEO of Avantha Capital, representing the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association.

April 30, 12 p.m.: The Cato Institute hosts a panel to discuss the Jones Act and Puerto Rico. Participants include Puerto Rico Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marin; Vicente Feliciano, founder and president of Advantage Business Consulting; John Dunham, president of John Dunham & Associates; Luis Burdiel Agudo, president of the Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank; and Anne Krueger, senior research professor of international economics at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies.

Ed Mortimer of U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Mortimer

May 1, 9:30 a.m.: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure Ed Mortimer delivers keynote remarks at the spring meeting of the Construction Industry Round Table.

May 1, 10 a.m.: The House Energy Subcommittee hosts a hearing titled, “The State of Pipeline Safety and Security in America.”

May 1, 10 a.m.: The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hosts a hearing titled, “Examining Discrimination in the Automobile Loan and Insurance Industries.” Participants include John W. Van Alst, attorney at the National Consumer Law Center and director of the National Consumer Law Center Working Cars for Working Families Project; Rachel J. Cross, policy analyst at the Frontier Group; Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Joshua Rivera, policy adviser at the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions initiative; and James Lynch, chief actuary and vice president of research and education at the Insurance Information Institute.

May 1, 2:30 p.m.: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell hosts a news conference.

May 2, 9 a.m.: The Washington Post’s Robert Costa interviews House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Mood Swings

The lack of an actual piece of legislation with the start of May fast-approaching is not a good look for transportation policymakers. Frank talk from observes is that it’s difficult to see how the House and Senate maneuver infrastructure policy over the summer. Despite the meeting between Trump and Dems, the Rs seem missing from the table.

 

In Case You Missed It

The concept of an “infrastructure week” has fallen flat during the Trump administration  Maybe that’ll change when organizers host the real Infrastructure Week on May 13-17.

Who’s New

Rep. Seth Moulton

Moulton

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, who recently joined a large field of presidential aspirants, has somewhat of an infrastructure policy background. According to research site Ballotpedia, the congressman was a managing director at Texas Railway from 2011 to 2012. He also was a summer associate of public sector infrastructure at Goldman Sachs from in the summer of 2010. The issue also is relatively on the radar on his campaign website: “We can rebuild our economy by rebuilding our country. That starts with connecting every house in America to affordable, high-speed internet. And it means not just repairing our roads, bridges and water pipes but building next-generation transportation, like high-speed rail, because everyone should have access to good jobs in their region and a chance to make it home after work in time for dinner.”

Buzz

The size of infrastructure policy this year is unlikely to meet stakeholders’ expectations. Sources familiar with ongoing legislative negotiations tell TT authorizers are expected to craft a “mini” bill that stops short of paving the way for new technologies.

 

Favorite Video

Wyoming Republican John Barrasso, the Senate’s top surface transportation policymaker, is a huge fan of the 2017 tax law.

Favorite Tweet

Kids in America

Last Word

They want to do impeachment, not infrastructure.

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on CNN’s State of the Union on April 28, referring to congressional Democrats

Kellyanne Conway

 

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.