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September 19, 2022 4:40 PM, EDT

Senate EPW to Assess Progress as IIJA Nears One-Year Mark

Capitol Agenda by Eugene Mulero

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As enactment of the $1 trillion infrastructure law approaches its one-year mark in two months, the congressional panel on highway matters intends to check where things are with its implementation.

The leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), scheduled a meeting for Sept. 21 with surface transportation stakeholders to review the work that remains, as well as highlight what has taken place regarding the law.



The panel was instrumental in crafting significant aspects of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which became law Nov. 15.

Sens. Tom Carper and Shelley Moore Capito

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) plan to meet with transportation stakeholders Sept. 21.

Carper, the committee’s chairman, is among the IIJA’s most vocal proponents.

“Last year, our committee led the way in drafting the surface transportation legislation that became the foundation of the bipartisan infrastructure law. As you will recall, this historic law provides more than $350 billion of investment in our nation’s highway programs. This includes a significant increase in funding for competitive grants to be administered by [the] Federal Highway Administration,” the chairman said during a hearing last week to consider a nominee for the FHWA’s top post.

“Now, the work of implementing these historic investments could not be more urgent. We know that far too many Americans continue to lack access to safe walkways and reliable public transportation. Traffic crashes and fatalities, which were already far too high, have risen sharply since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago,” Carper added.

Sen. John Boozman

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) stressed addtional truck parking access could make "a huge diffrence" in enhancing freight connectivity. (Sen. John Boozman via YouTube)

Members of the committee have raised myriad concerns, such as supply chain freight connectivity. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) pressed for additional parking access for the nation’s truckers.

“We’ve studied this thing with this and that. But it is low-hanging fruit. It’s something that we really could make, I think, a huge difference for the supply chain,” Boozman said Sept. 14. House lawmakers recently advanced legislation designed to facilitate access for truck parking. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

The Biden administration has announced programs linked to the IIJA’s implementation. News this month of grants for infrastructure projects nationwide was meant to signal improvements for supply chain connectivity.

A grant for $15 million for the Florida Department of Transportation will aim to address a “shortage in parking for commercial vehicles on a corridor between Tampa and Orlando,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “By providing reliable parking capacity, the project reduces time drivers spend searching for commercial vehicle parking, making supply chain movement more efficient.”

“Today we are announcing transformative investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and rail to improve the way Americans get around and help lower the costs of shipping goods,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sept. 15 regarding the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grants. “Using funding from President [Joe] Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, we are able to support more excellent community-led projects this year than ever before.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Sept. 20, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Examining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service: Stakeholder Perspectives.”

Sept. 20, 10 a.m.: The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “The Clean Water Act at Fifty: Highlights and Lessons Learned from a Half Century of Transformative Legislation.”

Sept. 20, 10 a.m.: The House Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee meets for a hearing to review the farm bill.

Jim Tymon

Tymon

Sept. 21, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing to examine the implementation of the IIJA. Witnesses include Jimmy Wriston, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation and Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Watch the hearing here

Sept. 21, 10 a.m.: The House Homeland Security Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Critical Infrastructure Preparedness and Resilience: A Focus on Water.”

Freight Corridor

Rail labor negotiations arrive at a tentative agreement.

Legislative Docket

Deb Fischer

Fischer

Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) recently introduced a bill designed to guarantee veterans benefits qualify for certain training programs for commercial driving.

“Veterans have already given so much for our country — the last thing they need is more frustrating red tape that prevents them from pursuing a career that is essential to our modern economy,” Fischer, a member of the Commerce Committee on freight policy, said Sept. 12. “These technical changes will reverse unnecessary regulations and allow more veterans to take advantage of their GI benefits.”

Midterms ’22

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently shared her strategy for the midterm elections. Meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill last week, the Democratic leader said, “Right now, my focus is on holding the House. How many times have I told you over the past year and a half‑plus that the Democrats would hold the House, despite some of the so‑called ‘conventional’ so‑called ‘wisdom’ in Washington, D.C., saying that, in the off-year, the president’s party always loses Congress or seats?”

Right now, my focus is on holding the House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi

She continued, “The fact is, that isn’t conventional and it isn’t wisdom, because convention has changed. We communicate in a different way. We have a different reality here now in terms of our own democracy being on the ballot, our planet being on the ballot, the future of our country being on the ballot.”

To that point, in the current political climate various pundits argue it seems too soon to say which party will ultimately become the congressional majority next year.

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Made in America

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Portrait of reflection.

The Last Word

The funding made available today will help launch our country’s new rail revolution and maintain our rail network’s unmatched standards for safety and efficiency.

Federal Railroad Administration administrator Amit Bose on Sept. 1, reacting to additional resources for the agency

Amit Bose

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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FHWA Nominee Shailen Bhatt to Appear at Senate EPW Hearing

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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.”

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A Pelican State update courtesy of Sen. Cassidy.

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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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

Semiconductor Bill Passes Senate, Awaits House Vote

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Legislation designed to assist semiconductor manufacturers and improve the flow of freight across the nation’s supply chains advanced in the Senate on July 27.

On a 64-33 vote, senators sent the bill to the House, where Democratic leaders there intend to consider it prior to the August recess. The legislation is expected to reach President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The White House has endorsed the bill.

Specifically, the semiconductor “chips and science” bill would dedicate $54 billion in grants for domestic manufacturers as well as access to industry resources.
During floor debate, Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called on colleagues to support the bill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

“We have a chip shortage today, and it’s costing our economy and it’s increasing inflation,” Cantwell said.

“We know that there is going to be a chip demand that is going to be threefold from where we are today in the very near future,” she added. “So that means if we don’t start building here, we’re not going to catch up. But more importantly, is the national security elements of making sure that the United States is making the most advanced semiconductors.”

House Republicans Press Buttigieg on IIJA Implementation

Some aspects of the Biden administration’s guidance relating to the implementation of the $1 trillion infrastructure law lacks clarity. That was a message Republicans on the U.S. House transportation panel shared with Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

During a hearing with the policymakers last week, the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Sam Graves, expressed criticism over information Buttigieg’s team provided the states about the law. At issue is a memorandum the Federal Highway Administration distributed last year with guidance for implementing the law’s provisions.

“One ongoing concern for me and many others is the Dec. 16, 2021, Federal Highway Administration guidance memo,” Graves (R-Mo.) observed. “Mr. Secretary, I know that you’ve spoken about some of the concerns raised since this guidance was issued.

“I hope you recognize the fact that it remains a serious source of concern and confusion because it pushes the administration’s own priorities, including a bias against adding new highway capacity, over what’s written in the law itself.”

Republican transportation leaders say they have interpreted the FHWA memo as suggesting the administration proposes that states prioritize fixing existing corridors, as well as severe-weather resilience projects, transit systems and active transportation modes with funds from the new infrastructure law.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

DeFazio

Democrats, however, defended the administration’s role in offering such guidance. Transportation committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) stressed that perspective.

“We want people just to think these things through. It’s not a mandate but think about it as you move forward, instead of, you know, doing the same thing again and again and again, which doesn’t work,” the chairman argued. “We induce more demand. We build more lane miles. We induce more demand. We build more lane miles. And we end up with the same congestion in the end.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was enacted Nov. 15. Administration leaders often referred to it as the bipartisan infrastructure law.

DeFazio’s sentiment was echoed by Buttigieg, who defended the memo’s guidance. The FHWA memo, titled, “Policy on Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Resources to Build a Better America,” says, “This guidance is intended to serve as an overarching framework to prioritize the use of [bipartisan infrastructure law] resources on projects that will build a better America.”

Buttigieg Testimony 71922 by Transport Topics on Scribd

Per the memo, “The intent of the guidance also is to ensure that the funding and eligibilities provided by the [bipartisan infrastructure law] will be interpreted and implemented, to the extent allowable under statute, to encourage states and other funding recipients to invest in projects that upgrade the condition of streets, highways and bridges and make them safe for all users, while at the same time modernizing them so that the transportation network is accessible for all users, provides people with better choices across all modes, accommodates new and emerging technologies, is more sustainable and resilient to a changing climate, and is more equitable.”

At the congressional hearing, Buttigieg also pointed to about $80 billion, approved by the law, that is being dedicated for projects nationwide. Those projects, he said, aim to improve connectivity at supply chain corridors, respond to climate change concerns and modernize aging bridges, ports and tunnels. Investments in automated and electric vehicles also are backed by the law.

The IIJA’s big-picture impact was a theme Buttigieg shared with the panel.

“From delays at ports, to freight congestion, to shortages in aviation, American transportation has rarely confronted this many intersecting challenges at once, both immediate and entrenched,” the secretary said. “Nearly 43,000 people died in traffic crashes last year — each of them a parent or child, colleague or friend. Transportation produces more carbon emissions than any other sector, at a time when the nations of the world are rallying to confront the climate challenge,” Buttigieg added. “As Americans grapple with the effects of inflation, we know transportation is the second-largest household expense after housing, affecting every family budget.”

America is innovative, the secretary insisted, and rebuilding infrastructure is among its priorities.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

July 26, 9 a.m.: PunchBowl News discusses supply chains with Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves.

Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema

July 26, 4 p.m.: The Washington Post hosts a discussion on semiconductors with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

July 27, 9:45 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers nominees for roles at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

July 27, 2:30 p.m.: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell hosts a news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

Freight Corridor

It's getting hot in here.

Legislative Docket

Bost

Bost

Legislation designed to increase parking access for truck drivers nationwide was easily approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel on July 20. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act would dedicate funding for transportation agencies to build or expand safe parking areas for commercial motor vehicles. Specifically, the bill would incrementally provide agencies nearly $800 million through fiscal 2026. According to the bill, its purpose is to “provide parking for commercial motor vehicles and improve the safety of commercial motor vehicle operators.”

Buzz

President Joe Biden recently nominated Shailen Bhatt to lead the Federal Highway Administration. As administrator, Bhatt would lead an agency tasked with overseeing an influx of $350 billion for highway systems. The funding was approved in the infrastructure law. Bhatt’s career includes stints as executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation and Cabinet secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, per background the White House provided. His confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled in the U.S. Senate.

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Thinking about the climate.

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Eye of the Tiger

The Last Word

FMCSA’s core mission is safety, and we’re proud to make investments that support the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ambitious goal of zero fatalities on our roadways.

FMCSA Deputy Administrator Robin Hutcheson on July 20

Robin Hutcheson

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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House Transportation Panel to Debate Truck Parking Bill

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Legislation designed to increase parking access for the nation’s truck drivers is scheduled for debate before the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel July 20.

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), would dedicate funding for transportation agencies to build safe parking areas for commercial motor vehicles.

Concerns related to a lack of truck parking ranked fifth on American Transportation Research Institute’s 2021 report, “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.” Efforts to expand parking facilities along freight corridors have garnered bipartisan support.

“I’ve championed the need for expanded truck parking for a long time because it impacts the safety of everyone on the road,” Bost, a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member, told Transport Topics this week. “This bill will help make our roads and interstates safer by ensuring that truckers no longer have to risk pushing themselves too far to make it a few extra miles to the next rest stop.”

He added, “I’m glad that we will be marking up my bill this week in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and hope that we can advance it to the House floor for a vote quickly.”

Congressional Republicans Hit Biden on Inflation

Republican policymakers have ramped up their critique of the Biden administration as Congress preps to depart for its August recess.

Inflation, sticker-shock at grocery stores and aggressive fuel prices anchor the GOP’s animus toward economic policies led by the White House. Republicans intend to keep sounding this alarm through the November midterm elections.

“Working families are struggling to make ends meet as they continue to face the worst inflation in more than 40 years,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a senior member of his caucus, said recently. He is the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The price of groceries, gas, rent, and utilities are skyrocketing, all while paychecks aren’t keeping up.

Tom Barrasso

Barrasso

“The economic sirens are blaring, and economists are warning of looming recession. But Joe Biden is covering his ears and turning his back on the American people.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of the Commerce Committee on freight policy, said, “People are getting their cars repossessed. People have to go to food banks. Gas prices, food prices; American public are frustrated because this is hurting so many people in my state.”

He further emphasized during an interview with Fox News on July 17, “I think [the midterm] is going to be a bloodbath for the Democrats this year.”

House Republican counterparts, equipped with the Consumer Price Index for June, which determined that prices increased by 9.1% year-over-year, echoed the senators’ sentiment.

This backwards plan is crushing families, and a House Republican majority would halt it in its tracks.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

“Democrats’ one-party rule is a historic failure of empty promises, excuses and higher costs. Their reckless spending spree has caused consumer costs to increase at a record-breaking, four-decade-high inflation rate,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “Democrats have no plan to bring rising costs under control, and instead are doubling down on pushing trillion-dollar tax-and-spend plans that will only make things worse. This backwards plan is crushing families, and a House Republican majority would halt it in its tracks.”

House GP T&I Roundtable by Transport Topics on Scribd

While hosting a roundtable with national freight stakeholders last week, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), ranking member on the transportation panel, noted, “Inflation is hitting the pocketbook of every American, and it’s hitting the transportation and construction industries particularly hard.”

pelosi

Pelosi

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, continue to call on Republicans to support legislation they argue would respond to economic pressures.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “We recognize the challenge inflation is to kitchen table budgeting for America’s working families. We want to lower costs for food, lower costs for fuel, lower costs for many of their expenses, and many of it sprang from price gouging by oil and gas companies.”

Pelosi pointed to House-passed supply- and fuel-centric measures.

“While Republicans vote against these, and these are mostly bipartisan bills, Democrats will continue to fight inflation and lowering costs for families.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) added, “In the weeks ahead, Congress must continue to advance legislation that bolsters our economy and invests in opportunities for the American people.

In the weeks ahead, Congress must continue to advance legislation that bolsters our economy.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

“If we want to stimulate growth and build a better and stronger economic foundation for America, we must ensure that our workers and families have access to opportunities to get ahead and to make it in America. House Democrats will continue to make that our mission and make progress for the people.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

July 19, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to testify. Watch the hearing here.

July 20, 11 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets to consider nominations for roles at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

July 21, 10:15 a.m.: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meets with David Pekoske, nominee for administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.

Freight Corridor

Infrastructure south of the border.

Legislative Docket

American Trucking Associations is among freight stakeholders calling on congressional committees to pass a bill that would expedite applications for commercial drivers seeking security credentials.

ATA logo

On July 11, the nearly 90 groups representing the trucking industry and various other commercial transportation sectors wrote lawmakers on the transportation panels to express their support for the Transportation Security Administration Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act.

The groups wrote to senior lawmakers: “Despite our unique perspectives on challenges facing America’s supply chains, we share the common burden of redundant background checks and duplicative fees that make it challenging and onerous for our members to obtain the security credentials they need to do their jobs.”

The bill, sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), would seek to assist aspects of the freight workforce. The assistance would focus on the application process for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and other requisite security credentials such as the hazardous materials endorsement (HME) and TSA PreCheck. Specifically, it would standardize enrollment and renewal procedures at the Transportation Security Administration.

Buzz

Legislation that would dedicate $52 billion for domestic semiconductor production is on the Senate’s radar this month.

Congressional aides and stakeholders with familiarity of legislative negotiations told Transport Topics there is an expectation the supply chain-centric bill arrives on the floor of the Senate for debate as early as this week. Senate leaders have expressed interest in approving the bill prior to the congressional August recess.

At issue has been a push from Senate leaders to also pursue a scaled-down “Build Back Better” social infrastructure budget package. Most Democrats endorse the revived Biden-backed budget plan, while top Republicans threatened to withhold support for the semiconductor bill if “Build Back Better” advanced.

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It’s all about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

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Portrait of a Man

The Last Word

You deserve safe, accessible, affordable, and reliable airline service.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on July 8

Pete Buttigieg

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

House T&I Republicans to Evaluate Inflation’s Impact

The impact inflation is having on the freight industry will be the theme of a roundtable the Republicans on the U.S. House transportation panel are hosting July 14.

Current economic conditions, such as the price of fuel, present challenges for advancing infrastructure projects meant to facilitate the flow of freight, argued committee ranking member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).

“Inflation is hitting the pocketbook of every American, and it’s hitting the transportation and construction industries particularly hard,” Graves said.

Rep. Sam Graves

Graves

Referring to the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, he added: “Inflation is eroding the value of the infrastructure law’s funding and causing states to delay or cancel projects. What’s worse, the president’s policies continue to fuel inflation and supply chain issues and create more red tape for infrastructure and energy projects.”

Sumerford

Sumerford

American Trucking Associations Chairman Harold Sumerford, also CEO of J&M Tank Lines, is scheduled to appear at the roundtable.

Other attendees include Robyn Boerstling, vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers, and Shawn Wilson, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Wilson is secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

August Recess Threatens Democrats’ Summer Agenda

With the start of the congressional August recess less than a month away, Democratic leaders have given themselves a limited timeline for pursuing various priorities.

On the radar for Senate Democrats are fuel-centric and semiconductor measures.

Proponents of the semiconductor legislation argue it would promote economic competitiveness. The Senate bill, referred to as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) aims to dedicate billions of dollars to enhance domestic manufacturing for the chip sector. Production of semiconductors was hindered due to supply chain disruptions, industry observers noted.

Mitch McConnell

McConnell

The bill’s timing in the Senate remains uncertain. Senate Democrats expressed interest in also pursuing a scaled-down “Build Back Better” budget package, which garnered opposition from the chamber’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The senator threatened to halt legislative negotiations if Democrats pursue the budget bill. McConnell recently shared his viewpoint on social media: “Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill.”

The semiconductor legislation has gained support from industry stakeholders and the White House.

Raimondo

“That has to pass. Has to pass now. Not in six months from now, now. It’s bipartisan,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told ABC News on July 10. “Mitch McConnell just threw a wrench in that about a week ago, saying that he wasn’t going to allow Republicans to move on that unless we move down reconciliation.”

Relatedly, Senate leaders have not scheduled votes on committee-approved bills designed to tackle domestic gas prices.

On the House side, Democrats are planning to schedule a vote this month on fiscal 2023 funding legislation. The committee-passed transportation funding bill would provide the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with $367.5 million for safety operations and programs. For FMCSA’s safety grants division the bill would dedicate $506.1 million. The House funding levels for the agency match President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal 2023.

THUD Community Project Funding by Transport Topics on Scribd

“This year’s [Transportation and Housing and Urban Development] bill builds upon the successes of President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, providing critical funding to augment this once-in-a-generation investment,” added Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the transportation funding subcommittee. He emphasized programs established under the new $1 trillion infrastructure law.

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.)

North Carolina Democratic Rep. David Price (BookTV)

On trucking matters, lawmakers included a provision that would deny funding for the enforcement of an electronic logging device rule pertaining to transporters of livestock and insects. Additionally, House lawmakers called on FMCSA to complete an annual hours-of-service safety data analysis. They also are seeking the agency provide an update on the implementation of an apprenticeship program for truck drivers under 21 to operate interstate, and are asking for updates regarding a large truck study.

Community project funding proposals included in the bill would dedicate $4 million for a freight connectivity project in Louisiana, nearly $2 million for mobility improvement programs in Arizona and more than $1 million for a truck driver training facility in Illinois.

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee opposed the bill, citing its proposed funding levels.

Texas Rep. Kay Granger

Granger

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the committee’s ranking member, said, “I am deeply concerned by the dramatic funding increases in this bill that expand the reach of the federal government and could add to our record-high inflation. The funding in the bill for rail and transit is in addition to the hundreds of billions already provided over the last year outside of the appropriations process.

“American families are struggling to make ends meet due to record-high inflation, and we must find ways to rein in government spending, so we don’t make the problem worse. As we move forward with this year’s appropriations bills, we must agree to set aside controversial policies, retain language from prior years and get consensus on top-line funding levels.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

July 12, 9 a.m.: PunchBowl News hosts a discussion with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

July 12, 10 a.m.: The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee examines the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with Federal Transit Administration Administrator Nuria Fernandez.

July 12, 10 a.m.: The Senate Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion Subcommittee examines national tourism strategies.

July 13, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee examines the federal aviation landscape. Watch hearing here

David Pekoske

Pekoske

July 13, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing on the nomination of David Pekoske to be administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.

July 13, 2 p.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

July 13, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Energy Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Pathways To Lower Energy Prices.”

July 14, 12 p.m.: The Washington Post hosts a discussion with Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su.

July 15, 9 a.m.: The ​​House Select Climate Crisis Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain.”

Freight Corridor

A look at TSA’s PreCheck.

Legislative Docket

United States Department of Transportation logo

Funding for rail safety operations around the country recently was announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the announcement, the department indicated nearly $600 million is available in funding for grants to be used for the country’s railroad crossing elimination program.

Recipients would be tasked with using the funds to enhance the safety and eliminate long delays at railroad crossings nationwide. Transportation agencies have through September to apply for a grant.

Buzz

The National Truck Driving Championships will be held in Indianapolis on Aug. 16-19, going live after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. As part of its special coverage on the “Road to NTDC 2022,” Transport Topics has profiled various qualifiers, including the tournament’s most recent grand champion Scott Woodrome, an Ohio-based driver with FedEx Freight.

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Dispatch from the Grand Canyon State

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Still looking for the cheap stuff?

The Last Word

USDOT is helping create both a strong domestic supply chain and a robust U.S. offshore wind industry.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg on June 24

Polly Trottenberg

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

House Committee to Debate FY23 Transportation Funding Bill June 30

Prior to leaving town for the July 4 recess, the funding panel in the U.S. House of Representatives will take up a fiscal 2023 transportation bill June 30.

The legislation aims to ensure operational continuity at the U.S. Department of Transportation for the upcoming fiscal year. Current federal funding authority is set to expire Oct. 1.

The legislation, which easily advanced in subcommittee last week, would match President Joe Biden’s funding request for programs at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The bill would provide FMCSA $367.5 million for its safety operations and programs, and $506.1 million for its safety grants division.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro


Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) says the bill advances climate change, transit and electric vehicles programs. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News)

Other transportation agencies would see funding increases under the bill. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, emphasized the bill is meant as a way to advance climate change, transit and electric vehicles programs included in the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). That law was enacted Nov. 15.

Americans across the country are still living with the consequences of our crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

“With the historic investments included in the 2022 federal spending package and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we are improving our roads, bridges and transit systems, but Americans across the country are still living with the consequences of our crumbling transportation infrastructure and aging housing stock,” DeLauro said. “Our annual duty to the American people to ensure we pay our transportation workers, improve the safety of our roads, and improve housing remains.”

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the transportation funding subcommittee, added that the bill “furthers our efforts to modernize and make more equitable our nation’s infrastructure by building upon the recent investments to remedy inequities in our transportation and housing systems, bolster our resiliency to a more extreme climate, and address our nation’s affordable housing and homelessness crises.” Price is the bill’s sponsor.

U.S. Department of Transporation Fiscal 2023 Funding Proposal-W by Transport Topics on Scribd

The House fiscal 2023 funding bill would dedicate $61.3 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $18.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, $17.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, $3.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration and $1.2 billion for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, it would dedicate $987 million for the Maritime Administration. Overall, USDOT would receive $90.9 billion, an increase of $9.9 billion above the enacted level. The appropriations committee is expected to publish a report on the bill to outline recommendations about certain provisions.

House Democratic leaders say they intend to schedule a floor vote on the legislation prior to the congressional August recess.

Texas Rep. Kay Granger

Granger

Many Republicans who oppose the bill criticized its proposed funding levels.

“American families are really struggling to make ends meet due to record high inflation, and we have to find ways to rein in government spending so we don’t make the problem worse,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Appropriations Committee ranking member, said during a subcommittee hearing last week.

Senators, meanwhile, have yet to announce a timeline for the consideration of their funding bills.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

June 28, 9 a.m.: Punchbowl News hosts a discussion with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

June 28, 11:30 a.m.: The Center for a New American Security hosts a panel discussion on supply chains.

June 30, 10 a.m.: The House Appropriations Committee marks up its fiscal 2023 transportation bill. Watch the hearing here.

June 30, 11:30 a.m.: The House Energy and Commerce Committee examines recycling operations nationwide. Watch the hearing here

Freight Corridor

President Joe Biden, during a recent trip to Europe, expanded on his “infrastructure decade” vision.

Legislative Docket

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

Advances in the commercial space travel industry prompted the leaders of the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to press Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on June 24 on the National Transportation Safety Board’s oversight role.

“As an independent agency, ‘the NTSB can carry out unbiased investigations and make recommendations regarding safety regulations and oversight practices of the DOT without inherent conflicts of interest,’ ” wrote Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), committee chairman and ranking member, respectively, and Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Garret Graves (R-La.), aviation subcommittee chairman and ranking member, respectively

“It is clear the NTSB’s independence must be protected in order to maintain the integrity and safety of the U.S. transportation system,” they added. “Since commercial space transportation is an important element of the U.S. transportation system, the NTSB’s authority to investigate such commercial space accidents is unequivocable.”

Buzz

DeFazio, chairman of the transportation panel in the U.S. House, said he is not on board with President Biden’s push for a three-month suspension of the federal fuel tax.

“Although well-intentioned, this policy would at best achieve only minuscule relief while blowing a $10 billion hole in the Highway Trust Fund that would need to be filled if we want to continue to fix crumbling bridges, address the spike in traffic deaths and build a modern infrastructure system,” DeFazio said this month. “We should instead deliver relief directly to consumers by ending Big Oil’s price gouging and profiteering, with my bill, the Stop Gas Price Gouging Tax and Rebate Act, which taxes the oil industry’s obscene 2022 profits and returns the revenue back to Americans.”

Biden recently called on Congress to suspend the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax for three months. The president explained the suspension would assist consumers with economic pressures. AAA reported that the average price of gas was $4.94 a gallon as of June 23. According to the Energy Information Administration on June 13, the national average price of diesel reached $5.718 a gallon.

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Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the chamber’s legislative schedule.

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Cities are making it happen.

The Last Word

When we restore and conserve habitat, we also protect communities and support local economies.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) on June 15

Sen. Tom Carper

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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Senate Panel Approves Maritime Administration Bill

The Senate Commerce Committee on June 22 easily approved a bill to update operations at the Maritime Administration.

The Maritime Administration Reauthorization Act would authorize funding for the maritime workforce.

It also would back programs associated with infrastructure networks, research and development and fleet sustainability. The bill’s full Senate consideration has yet to be scheduled.

What's in the Bill?

Per a summary provided by the committee, the bill would dedicate:

$750 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program

$318 million for the Maritime Security Program

$120 million for the Tanker Security Program

$112.8 million for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

$80.7 million for state maritime academies

$40 million for the Small Shipyard Grant Program

$15 million for the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance Program

“This bill makes critical investments in America’s maritime workforce, shipyards and port infrastructure that are key to keeping our supply chains moving,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said this month. 
“I am glad to support this bill, which would improve our marine highway system, help protect against sexual assault and harassment within our merchant fleet and at the Merchant Marine Academy, support maritime education and reauthorize the port infrastructure development program,” added co-sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the panel’s ranking member.

Marad Bill by Transport Topics on Scribd

Senate Panel to Vote on FMCSA Nominee June 22

Prior to leaving town for the July 4 recess, a Senate panel intends to approve President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the federal trucking agency as House Democrats aim to pass a fiscal 2023 transportation funding bill this summer.

The Senate Commerce Committee on June 22 plans to vote on the nomination of Robin Hutcheson for the top job at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The nominee, serving as the agency’s acting head, during her confirmation hearing highlighted the trucking workforce’s contributions to the economy amid supply chain woes. (June 22 update: Panel approves Hutcheson; nomination moves to Senate floor.)

“Now, more than ever, Americans are acutely tuned in to how our goods get to our homes — from the flour for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in — we all have a better understanding that it probably came on a truck,” she told the panel this month. “People, in this case, drivers, are the most important part of the industry. It is a difficult job, and men and women have been working long hours to literally keep our economy rolling in the face of unprecedented challenges.”

Robin Hutcheson

Hutcheson

During exchanges with members of the committee, Hutcheson also highlighted recently approved workforce programs meant to address an industrywide shortage of drivers. The programs, such as an advisory board focused on recruiting and retaining women, were included in the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The aim of the soon-to-be-unveiled board is to provide recommendations and respond to an array of workplace concerns. The concerns may pertain to career advancement, safety risks, workplace harassment and instances of lack of mentorship. Additionally, the board would look to identify ways women’s role in trucking could be amplified. It would do so via a series of reviews and reports meant as recommendations for regulators and policymakers. As Hutcheson put it, “Its role will be to identify barriers to women entering and staying in the driving profession.”

Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) touted Hutcheson’s record.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) praised Hutcheson's experience from positions in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. (Senate Commerce Committee)

“She brings tremendous on-the-ground experiences,” the senator said. “Strong federal leadership is needed as the nation faces a tragic rise in the highway fatalities, including a dramatic increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks.”

A favorable committee vote on her nomination would advance her to the Senate floor for consideration.

Background about the nominee is posted on the White House’s website.

“Prior to being appointed to the Biden-Harris administration, Hutcheson was the director of Public Works for the city of Minneapolis, overseeing a team of 1,100 people across nine divisions including drinking water, surface waters and sewers, solid waste and recycling, fleet management and all transportation functions. Prior to her appointment in Minneapolis, she served as the transportation director for Salt Lake City, working to improve all modes of transportation.”

Senate Commerce Committee Questionnaire for FMCSA Nominee by Transport Topics on Scribd

Meanwhile, Democrats on the House side, while still searching for quick fixes to record-high gas prices, have expressed optimism about the prospects of fiscal 2023 funding legislation. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pointed to July as the window of opportunity for the measures’ floor consideration. (House leaders aim to wrap up the appropriations process prior to their August recess.)

Specifically, the fiscal 2023 transportation bill will be considered during a House subcommittee hearing June 23. Its full committee consideration is scheduled for June 30. Most of the federal government is operating under funding authority that expires at the end of September. Congressional funding leaders are tasked with reaching an agreement on the bills before the start of the new fiscal year.

DeLauro

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) argued her colleagues’ bills would “continue to help meet the needs of working people, lower costs, and address many of the major challenges we face at home and abroad.”

Senators have yet to schedule votes on their versions of the funding measures.

The White House budget request for the U.S. Department of Transportation calls for the approval of $142 billion. That consists of $23.6 billion for aviation modernization, $4.45 billion for transit projects, $3 billion for safety programs at the Federal Highway Administration, $1.5 billion for infrastructure construction grants and $230 million for certain port projects. As part of the request, FMCSA’s safety operations and programs would receive $367.5 million. FMCSA’s safety grants division would receive $506.1 million.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

June 22, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Robin Hutcheson to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Watch the hearing here

June 23, 4 p.m.: A House appropriations subcommittee considers a fiscal 2023 transportation bill.

Freight Corridor

For an overview on infrastructure affairs, the Veep made a stop in the Keystone State.

Legislative Docket

The House transportation panel recently approved legislation meant to expedite access to federal disaster assistance. The bill looks to prioritize long-term housing programs for individuals who were affected by natural disasters.

Per the bill, “After the declaration of a major disaster, the president may direct the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide, subject to amounts made available from appropriations, assistance necessary for meeting unmet needs as a result of such disaster.”

A floor vote on the bill has yet to be scheduled.

Buzz

Senate Democrats are signaling the potential for tackling fuel-centric legislation ahead of the midterm elections, and all eyes are on Senate leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to determine the timing of bills meant to draw more scrutiny to the gas industry, as well as attempt to offer relief to consumers at the pump.

Their House counterparts intend to debate similar legislation this summer. Congressional approval of a gas tax holiday is unlikely, sources tell us. Republicans, said to be on track to make gains in the House and Senate this election cycle, are pointing to Biden’s policies as the reason for rising costs.

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We simply can’t stop talking about that oil.

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A world of possibilities with regards to resilience.

The Last Word

We are so pleased to provide resources that help reach into the forgotten corners of our communities to ensure no one is left behind.

Federal Transit Administration chief Nuria Fernandez on June 16

FTA Administrator Nura Fernandez

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

Congressional Transportation Leaders Review Trucking Policies

Efforts to enhance the trucking industry’s workforce and provide additional parking to those currently operating trucks nationwide recently captured the spotlight on Capitol Hill.

While gun control and supply chain policy debates are likely to dominate Congress’ attention over the next few weeks, it is worth noting transportation policymakers recently acknowledged two of the industry’s urgent needs.

At a Senate hearing this month that featured President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, policymakers pressed for the continued implementation of a training program for truckers under 21 to operate commercial vehicles interstate. They also sought assurances on the goals and objectives of a soon-to-be-announced advisory board focused on women. The recruitment and retention of women is a priority for trucking industry stakeholders.

Sen. Todd Young

Young

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), of the Commerce Committee, led the passage of the under-21 interstate apprenticeship pilot program, which was included in the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He shared his viewpoint June 8 with Robin Hutcheson, nominee to become the next FMCSA administrator.

“[The] pilot program will help address the driver shortage, provides new career opportunities for young Hoosiers and other Americans and helps us make the roads safer, all under the same apprenticeship program,” Young said. “Throughout the pandemic, America’s transportation and logistics sector stepped up to meet unprecedented challenges. And I know that because my state has a significant logistics presence.

“They delivered medical supplies, delivered equipment and other essential goods across the country. For the American public this was, I think, a stark reminder that our truck drivers, along with rail workers, and cargo airlines and auto manufacturers, continue to provide critical services. And it underscores that we need to support these vital industries.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), also a member of the committee, expressed enthusiasm for the initiative focused on an industrywide women’s advisory group.

“I was proud to have included my legislation that I advanced with my colleague Sen. [Jerry] Moran in the bipartisan infrastructure law to establish a women of trucking advisory board.”

In response to a questionnaire from the panel, Hutcheson told senators that addressing workforce concerns is among the main challenges facing the agency.

“Recruitment and retention continue to be a challenge that will be met with a deeper understanding of the barriers to quality work environment and compensation,” she said, “including ensuring the profession is welcoming to women and people of color.”

Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told Transport Topics a vote on the nominee likely would be scheduled this summer.

Defazio-Graves Letter to Buttigieg by Transport Topics on Scribd

On the House side, the leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure panel pointed to a lack of parking availability for commercial drivers as a contributor to supply chain woes. For years, industry stakeholders have sounded the alarm on inadequate access to parking.

“As the department establishes its spending priorities, we ask that you closely consider applications for and award funding to projects that will expand truck parking capacity,” Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on June 7. “We believe that focusing funding on truck parking will improve highway safety for all road users and help to alleviate long-standing supply chain inefficiencies.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

June 14, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets to review freight rail safety policies. Watch the hearing here.

June 14, 10 a.m.: The House Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee meets for a hearing to review the Biden administration’s funding request for emergency relief programs.

June 14, 10:30 a.m.: The House Budget Committee meets for a hearing to examine COVID-19 emergency relief funds.

June 14, 10:30 a.m.: The Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Protecting America’s Consumers: Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Data Privacy and Security.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Barrasso

June 14, 5 p.m.: Punchbowl News hosts a panel discussion with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

June 15, 9:30 a.m.: The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee reviews the Labor Department’s fiscal 2023 budget request. Secretary Marty Walsh is scheduled to testify.

June 15, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers legislation related to environmental preservation.

Freight Corridor

The Valley of the Sun looks to improve its connectivity.

Legislative Docket

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

Senate Commerce Committee leaders introduced legislation designed to reauthorize programs at the Maritime Administration. The measure would dedicate nearly $2 billion for the maritime workforce, boost infrastructure networks, enhance research and development operations and pave the way for advancements in fleet sustainability.

“This bill makes critical investments in America’s maritime workforce, shipyards and port infrastructure that are key to keeping our supply chains moving,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said on June 8.

Roger Wicker

Wicker

“It will create a new innovation center to explore cleaner fuels and new technologies to boost resilience of our maritime fleet and ensure the U.S. maritime industry remains competitive well into the future."

She is co-sponsoring the Maritime Administration Reauthorization Act with the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“A strong Maritime Administration is essential for our national and economic security," said Wicker. "I am glad to support this bill, which would improve our marine highway system, help protect against sexual assault and harassment within our merchant fleet and at the Merchant Marine Academy, support maritime education and reauthorize the port infrastructure development program.”

Buzz

House funding leaders announced a schedule for the consideration of their fiscal 2023 transportation appropriations bill, as well as other appropriations measures. The transportation bill will be presented at a subcommittee hearing June 23, followed by its full committee consideration on June 30.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues —on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers — to get our spending bills once again over the finish line,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

Favorite Video

It’s all about the economy.

Favorite Tweet

More data for Elon Musk to digest.

The Last Word

Having oversight for the first time to plan, lead and oversee the finance of our own road projects will only mean more and better investments in terms of travel.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. on June 8

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

FMCSA Nominee Robin Hutcheson to Appear Before Senate Panel June 8

Congress returns to action this week, and senators are set to hear from President Joe Biden’s picks for senior roles.

Robin Hutcheson, nominee to be the next administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee on June 8. (Watch the hearing here)

The panel, tasked with overseeing freight policy, is expected to press the nominee on trucking regulation, roadway safety and supply chain bottlenecks. Favorable feedback from senators would pave the way for Hutcheson’s nomination to advance to the Senate floor for consideration.

Robin Hutcheson

Robin Hutcheson also has worked in the public sector at agencies in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. (SunJae Smith/American Trucking Associations)

The nominee is the agency’s acting administrator, a role she has filled this year. Before FMCSA, she was deputy assistant secretary for safety policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She previously worked in the public sector at agencies in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. She also served on the board of directors for the National Association of City Transportation Officials, per background the committee provided.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear issued a statement earlier this year reacting to her nomination.

“She has deep experience in transportation administration, having previously served as director of public works for the City of Minneapolis and transportation director for Salt Lake City, which makes her well-qualified and prepared for this vital role,” Spear said. “Her commitment to working with our industry to improve safety is unwavering.”

Steven Cliff

Cliff

The hearing will take place shortly after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated a 10.5% increase in motor vehicle crashes fatalities from 2020. The Senate recently confirmed Steven Cliff to be NHTSA administrator.

“Vehicle fatalities have increased a staggering 18% since the pandemic started,” Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said. “Swift action is needed from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement lifesaving mandates in [the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act] including automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and impaired driving prevention.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

June 8, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets for a hearing on roadway safety.

June 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing with Robin Hutcheson, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Freight Corridor

Supply chain update: New sheriff in town.

Legislative Docket

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

Awaiting consideration before the full Senate is legislation sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that would establish a division within the Federal Trade Commission. The unit would be tasked with ensuring marketplace transparency by monitoring crude oil, gasoline and diesel sectors.

The bill would require the surveys of energy companies for gathering timely and relevant information on crude oil and transportation fuel markets. And it would set the maximum penalty for manipulating wholesale oil markets at $2 million daily per violation.

Buzz

The road to the National Truck Driving Championships is well underway. On June 5, New Jersey was among the latest states to wrap up its qualifier and send a roster of competitors to the national tournament.

Wilbert Vano with XPO Logistics, operating a 3-axle truck, earned grand champion at a course in Atlantic City. Nearly two dozen states still have to proceed with their qualifiers. This year’s National Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Championships will be held in Indianapolis Aug. 16-20.

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A White House perspective on infrastructure funding implementation.

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More amenities at the airport.

The Last Word

I am inspired by the cutting-edge transportation technologies our [University Transportation Centers] are developing.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on May 26

Pete Buttigieg

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

DOT Unveils Safety Grants Availability

As the House readies consideration of fuel-centric legislation this week, senior transportation officials announced funding availability for a new safety initiative.

The Department of Transportation on May 16 unveiled the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) discretionary grant program, totaling $1 billion for the current fiscal year.

As the name suggests, grant funding would be dedicated to assist with ensuring safe streets and roads nationwide. Established under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, often referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law, the grants aim to reduce crashes throughout the country’s roadways. The Biden White House is marking the six-month anniversary of the $1 trillion infrastructure law’s enactment.

SS4A Notice of Funding Opportunity FY22 by Transport Topics on Scribd

“We face a national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways, and these tragedies are preventable, so as a nation we must work urgently and collaboratively to save lives,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “The funds we are making available today from President [Joe] Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law will help communities large and small take action to protect all Americans on our roads.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 31,720 individuals died in motor vehicle traffic crashes between January and September 2021.

Stephanie Pollack

Pollack

“The rise in deaths and serious injuries on our public roads affects people of every age, race and income level, in rural communities and big cities alike,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack added. “This program will provide leaders in communities across the country with the resources they need to make roads safer for everyone.”

Agencies and institutions eligible for the grants include metropolitan planning organizations, counties, municipalities, special districts such as subdivisions of a state, certain transit agencies, tribal governments, as well as multijurisdictional groups, according to DOT. The application deadline is Sept. 15.

Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi

Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill, House Democratic leaders plan to schedule consideration of legislation designed to spotlight alleged price gouging on behalf of oil and gas firms. The measure is in response to fuel prices, which recently have reached record levels for consumers and industries. Debate on the bill will occur as millions of motorists prepare for road trips during Memorial Day, a holiday that traditionally kicks off the busy summer driving season. Specifically, the legislation would expand the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to allow the agency to determine if energy companies are engaging in exploitative prices.

“We need to have a bright light of transparency on how companies are making big profits at the expense — and this is in the energy sector — at the expense of the consumer,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told ABC News on May 15.

Rep. Garret Graves

Graves

Republicans, signaling their opposition to the measure, have indicated they intend to criticize the Biden administration’s policies during the debate in the chamber.

“​​We are paying record prices for gasoline and to heat and cool our homes,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said recently. “Rather than using American energy sources to help solve the problem and lower prices, the Biden administration continues to carry out policies that only benefit Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and other apparent allies of this White House.”

Graves emphasized: “It is past time for the administration to put Americans first.”

According to Energy Information Administration data from May 9, the national average price of diesel set a new record at 5.623 a gallon.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Marty Walsh

Walsh

May 17, 9 a.m.: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh defends the fiscal 2023 budget request for his department during a House appropriations committee hearing.

May 17, 10:15 a.m.: The House Energy and Commerce Committee meets to review the fiscal 2023 budget request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

May 17, 1 p.m.: The House Aviation Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Preparing for Take-Off: Examining Efforts to Address Climate Change at U.S. Airports.” Watch the hearing here.

May 20, 10 a.m.: The House Research and Technology Subcommittee meets for a hearing to examine the electric vehicle market.

Freight Corridor

When infrastructure funding availability collides with the economy.

Legislative Docket

Congressional policymakers are meeting in conference negotiations to finalize supply chain-centric legislation meant to boost domestic production of semiconductors. Ultimately, a final legislative product could dedicate about $50 billion for the semiconductor industry. Additionally, elements of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act are up for consideration during the negotiations. Under that bill focusing on the Federal Maritime Commission, carriers would be required to issue certain reports to the commission each quarter. It also would pave the way for the registration of shipping exchanges.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, strengthen America’s supply chains, help drive down costs for Americans and reinvigorate manufacturing here at home.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Sen. Maria Cantwell

“I believe this is a Sputnik moment, where it is clear to Americans that we are falling behind on innovation and we can’t risk falling further behind,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, said. “Let’s roll up our sleeves, strengthen America’s supply chains, help drive down costs for Americans and reinvigorate manufacturing here at home. That is what we need to do to ensure the next 100 years of global leadership and to build things right here in the United States of America.”

Buzz

The phrase “Build Back Better” had a moment inside of the Beltway. But after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) did away with the bulk of Biden’s nearly $2 trillion social infrastructure package in December, the White House has struggled to turn a new-and-improved “Build Back Better” into a thing. Although key provisions related to climate and energy could, or might, see the light of day, our sources insist the original “BBB” is no more.

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He said. He said.

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It was written.

The Last Word

Across our transportation systems, there is still much more to do to achieve our goals.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg on May 10

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

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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Senate Confirms Maritime Administration Chief

Retired Rear Admiral Ann Phillips will become the next administrator of the Maritime Administration after her confirmation by the U.S. Senate on May 10.

By a 75-22 vote, senators approved the nominee to lead the agency at a time when bottlenecks across parts of the maritime system are said to be contributing to slowdowns along supply chains.

During the confirmation process, the nominee told the Commerce Committee that if confirmed she would “continue to strengthen the resilience of our supply chains and implement a historic investment in our maritime infrastructure.”

Ann Phillips

Phillips

As administrator, she said her priorities would consist of “promoting a strong U.S. Merchant Marine and continuing the recapitalization of the strategic sealift fleet, and continuing support for a competitive, safe and modern maritime industry that is capable of meeting strategic sealift support requirements and prepared to succeed in a contested environment.”

President Joe Biden’s transportation nominees awaiting consideration before the Senate include Steven Cliff to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Victoria Wassmer to become chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Christopher Coes to be an assistant secretary of Transportation.

The Commerce Committee, with jurisdictional authority over trucking policy, has yet to schedule a hearing on the nomination of Robin Hutcheson to become the next administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Sens. Thune, Peters Urge DOT to Create AV Road Map

Two of the Senate’s key proponents of autonomous vehicles pressed the nation’s top transportation officer on the need for adopting a national framework for the technology.

During a hearing of the Commerce Committee last week, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) insisted a federal regulatory road map for AVs would be beneficial for myriad industries as well as motorists.

Benefits associated with AVs would include improving vehicle-to-vehicle safety along highways and freight connectivity. The senators have been collaborating on legislation designed to establish such a regulatory framework. A requisite number of their colleagues, however, have not backed their legislation on the chamber floor.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

Thune

“As you know, it’s something I’ve worked over the past several years to try and address in a bipartisan fashion and that is to enact automated vehicles legislation, which I do believe is the key to ensuring that AVs are tested and deployed under a safe and consistent regulatory framework,” Thune told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on May 4.

“And I remain committed to advancing this critical emerging technology. But in the absence of legislation, I believe it’s essential for the department to establish a framework for the testing and deployment of AVs,” Thune added. “Measures such as granting exemption petitions or updating relevant regulations are crucial to modernizing vehicle safety standards and gathering relevant safety data to ensure that the U.S. maintains its leadership in this important technology.”

Gary Peters

Peters

Peters, the author of a recent letter to the secretary pressing for federal guidelines, echoed Thune’s viewpoint at the hearing. The letter was signed by several of his colleagues on the transportation committees.

“I do want to have a conversation about autonomous vehicles, and the fact of the matter is that one day I think we all know that cars will be both electric and they will be autonomous, as well,” Peters told the secretary.

Peters continued, “History has taught us that technological change is inevitable. And while that has produced benefits for society, there’s plenty of examples of workers unfortunately getting left behind as this technology moves forward. So I believe we can seize the moment to mold a new pattern because good jobs and innovation in my mind do not have to be and are not mutually exclusive.”

In his letter to the secretary, Peters and his colleagues pointed to their ongoing legislative efforts and the technology’s benefits, such as addressing driver error and expanding mobility options for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Latta

Latta

On the House side, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), recently reintroduced his Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution, or SELF DRIVE, Act. The bill, similar to the measure being offered by Thune and Peters, would establish a framework on autonomous vehicles.

Buttigieg pointed to the administration’s ongoing efforts on AVs and told the senators he recognized the technology’s potential benefits.

“We very much agree. And like you, are interested in making sure that this transition, whether we’re talking about electric or automated, is principally made in America, that it creates more opportunity,” the secretary told Peters. “And it can, but we need to provide the right kind of policy framework.”

He added: “We’re doing everything we can with existing authorities to make sure that it unfolds in a way that is safe, that builds the confidence of Americans in these technologies, and at the same time, provides the flexibility for the kinds of research, development and testing that are needed.”

Buttigieg Testimony Senate Commerce Committee May 3 by Transport Topics on Scribd

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

May 10, 10 a.m.: The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meets for a budget hearing.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

May 10, 1 p.m.: The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meets for a budget hearing. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to testify.

May 11, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for an oversight hearing on the Council on Environmental Quality.

May 11, 2 p.m.: The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meets for a budget hearing.

May 12, 9:30 a.m.: The House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meets for a budget hearing. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is scheduled to testify.

May 12, 10 a.m.: House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee meets for a hearing on the Surface Transportation Board reauthorization.

Freight Corridor

Maintaining a focus on all things environment.

Legislative Docket

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee easily approved the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. The bill is meant to increase funding for ports and commercial corridors amid supply chain bottlenecks.

Sen. Tom Carper

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. (C-SPAN)

“The importance of investing in and revitalizing our water infrastructure cannot be understated. From the waterways that deliver goods to the Port of Wilmington to the beaches protecting our coastal communities, our water resources are core to our way of life,” Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said May 4.

“This year’s reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act would authorize the modification of existing and construction of new, critical Army Corps projects in Delaware and throughout the country — projects that will significantly improve quality of life, create good-paying jobs and protect communities against the threats of climate change.”

Buzz

Norman Mineta

Mineta

President Joe Biden on May 6 signed into law legislation naming the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters after former secretaries Norm Mineta and William T. Coleman, Jr.

“Norm will always be remembered for the many barriers he broke,” Biden said of Mineta’s passing May 3. “He was the first Asian American to serve as mayor of a major city, his beloved hometown of San Jose, as well as the first Asian American to serve in the Cabinet. Over two decades in the House of Representatives, Norm was a force of purpose and progress.”

Coleman was the first African American to run the department.

Favorite Video

Secretary Pete goes after that local audience.

Favorite Tweet

A moment of Jerseyana

The Last Word

We aren’t in the entertainment business; we are in the get-things-done business.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) on May 3

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

GOP’s Graves Pursues Transportation Oversight for Infrastructure Law

During a spring agenda in which Democrats seek to deliver on supply chain and gas tax measures, in addition to confirming officials for the Biden administration, the top Republican on the U.S. House transportation panel is dedicating resources to conduct oversight.

The enactment of a $1 trillion infrastructure policy law in November, which promises to deliver about $500 billion for highway-centric projects, is being carefully tracked by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), among others. The law is formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Graves’ focus on the law’s implementation, for which he has sought meetings with top White House officials, serves as a reminder that oversight of massive policy directives is an ongoing practice. Insisting state agencies be afforded decision-making flexibility with regards to the law, a Federal Highway Administration memorandum issued in December has turned into a focal point for Graves’ caucus.

Rep. Sam Graves

“Rural and suburban areas have real concerns and needs for adding additional lanes to existing roads to relieve congestion and accommodate the urban sprawl into their communities," says Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.). (Congressman Sam Graves via YouTube)

“Republicans raised this issue with [White House infrastructure law coordinator] Mitch Landrieu when he briefed committee leaders, but we are still very concerned about the ongoing impacts of this agency guidance, how states are interpreting it and the fact that it is in conflict with the letter of the law in IIJA.”

The FHWA memo’s guidance has been interpreted to suggest that state agencies repair existing projects, as opposed to proceed with new ones. For that reason, House Republicans have been calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation leadership to rescind the memo.

House T&I Estimates for Fiscal 2023 Budget by Transport Topics on Scribd

“Rural and suburban areas have real concerns and needs for adding additional lanes to existing roads to relieve congestion and accommodate the urban sprawl into their communities, but there is still confusion out there over this memo and some states are interpreting it differently than others,” Graves recently told Transport Topics.

The Republicans, Graves said, have not heard directly from the transportation secretary about their request that the memo be rescinded.

“Instead of addressing this confusion in the best way possible, by rescinding the December memo, as Republicans have requested, FHWA just doubled down on it when the agency announced its carbon reduction guidance April 21 and reiterated its priorities from the December memo,” he observed.

Rep. Peter DeFazio

DeFazio

In the meantime, committee Republicans plan to continue to host policy roundtables featuring stakeholders. Topics of interest include supply chain, mask mandates and domestic energy. As defeat continues to look like a possibility for House Democrats in the November midterms, Graves is emerging as a likely successor for Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to fill the role of transportation committee chairman.

“We are closely watching how the Biden administration is implementing IIJA, and this type of oversight is going to be a priority for us in the coming years. Not only is such a large funding measure subject to potential waste, fraud and abuse, but the inflation, supply chain and American energy crises have significant implications for this law and every single infrastructure dollar,” Graves said.

“Given this administration’s priorities so far, Republicans also want to make sure this money is distributed equitably and that rural and suburban communities are not left behind,” he added. “That’s why we need to hear from administration officials: more directly and more regularly. And that’s why Republicans have been and will continue to hold these roundtables, to focus on these issues and ensure as much oversight as possible.”

Per the panel’s legislative agenda, Graves indicated Republicans will seek bipartisanship on comprehensive water policy legislation. Democrats on the committee intend to consider the water bill in the coming weeks.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

May 3, 10 a.m.: The Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee meets for a hearing on broadband.

May 3, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Watch the hearing here.  

May 4, 10 a.m.: The Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee meets for a budget hearing.

May 4, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers water infrastructure policy legislation.

May 4, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Indian Affairs Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Setting New Foundations: Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Native Communities.”

Freight Corridor

Similar to politics, plenty of matters are local in nature.

Legislative Docket

Gary Peters

Peters

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the surface transportation subcommittee, recently sought an update from federal officials on a framework for autonomous vehicles. He was joined by colleagues in detailing potential benefits from the emerging technology. Peters and others introduced a bill to establish a national regulatory framework for AVs.

In the recent letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers wrote: “We respectfully request your insights regarding the following questions about how USDOT plans to address autonomous vehicles.”

They continued, “What specific actions is USDOT considering in the near term regarding autonomous vehicles? What existing statutory authorities will USDOT consider using to maintain the nation’s leadership in developing and manufacturing autonomous vehicles here in the United States?”

Buzz

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on April 28 held an event to raise awareness about sexual assault prevention. In coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency hosted a roundtable with stakeholders from the trucking industry to outline ongoing efforts to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment from the industry.

 

Favorite Video

Transportation mogul gobbles twitterverse.

Favorite Tweet

First points of entry.

The Last Word

President Biden is leading the largest-ever federal investment in modernizing our country’s ports.

Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley on April 19

Lucinda Lessley

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info:

 

Congress Finalizing Ports Supply Chain Bill, Cantwell Says

Legislation designed to enhance the movement of freight at ports is part of Congress’ agenda over the coming weeks, a key negotiator of the bill told reporters April 26.

During Senate Democrats’ weekly press conference, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) emphasized that fellow lawmakers were meeting to arrive at a final version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. Versions of the bill recently advanced in the House and in the Senate.

“We’re working on issues that affect everyday consumers on price. As you know, we passed out of the Senate a shipping bill that we’re working with the House to resolve the differences on,” Cantwell said. “This is very important because shipping costs accelerated greatly and have raised costs on average Americans.

Sen. Maria Cantwell

"Shipping costs accelerated greatly and have raised costs on average Americans," Sen Maria Cantwell says. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), targets the Federal Maritime Commission by requiring carriers to issue certain reports to the commission each quarter. The bill, which aims to respond to ongoing supply chain pressures, also would pave the way for the registration of shipping exchanges.

Proponents of the legislation have suggested its provisions could be included in a larger supply chain-centric package.
Freight stakeholders representing ports, commodities and the commercial transportation industry have endorsed the measure.

Buttigieg to Defend FY23 Budget Request April 28

The country’s top transportation officer is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill this week to defend President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget request for infrastructure projects, freight safety initiatives, construction grants and increases for climate change programs.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s hearing before the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee will take place April 28. Congress is resuming its legislative agenda after the Easter recess.

For the U.S. Department of Transportation, the White House is calling on congressional funding leaders to approve $142 billion for fiscal 2023. The request includes $367.5 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety operations and programs, and $506.1 million for the agency’s safety grants division.

President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

President Joe Biden looks on as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg delivers remarks during a recent White House event. Buttigieg is requesting $142 billion for his department in the fiscal 2023 budget. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News)

For other programs, the budget request calls for $23.6 billion for aviation modernization, $4.45 billion for major transit projects, $3 billion for safety programs at the Federal Highway Administration, $1.5 billion for infrastructure construction grants and $230 million for port projects considered essential for supply chain connectivity.

“The fiscal year 2023 budget request prioritizes safety as the foundation of everything we do, while also helping the economy recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to the threat of climate change, implementing [bipartisan infrastructure law] and ensuring transportation is an engine for equity,” according to background materials the department provided. “Together, these investments and their underlying policies will provide the resources needed to strengthen the safety focus to reduce fatalities on our nation’s roads and help meet the ambitious goals identified in the department’s national roadway safety strategy.”

Buttigieg said last month, “From roads, tunnels and bridges, to airport and port improvements, electric vehicle chargers, safe bike lanes and more, we are building a first-rate transportation system for all Americans.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg News)

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also is making her way to the Hill this week. She is scheduled to address the administration’s response to supply chain bottlenecks during a Commerce Committee hearing April 27.

The secretaries’ testimonies will occur amid pushback from congressional Republicans on the transportation panels. The senior GOP members have ramped up their critique of the fiscal 2023 budget request as well as Biden administration directives targeting infrastructure projects.

Regarding the recent announcement of the Federal Highway Administration’s carbon reduction program, Republican Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri and Rodney Davis of Illinois said: “The Biden administration doubled down on discouraging states from building new roads they may need, despite this policy being in direct conflict with what Congress intended in the recent infrastructure law.” Graves is the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Davis is the ranking member on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

GOP Letter to CEQ by Transport Topics on Scribd

The comprehensive carbon reduction program established by the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is meant to assist state departments of transportation with emissions mitigation efforts.

Regarding a move by the administration to enhance permitting guidance anchored in the National Environmental Policy Act, Graves said: “This rule to reimpose outdated NEPA regulations couldn’t come at a worse time. The nation continues to deal with various crises the president’s policies have exacerbated, from inflation, to the supply chain, to American energy independence.”

Added Graves: “Now the administration is moving backwards on much needed, common-sense NEPA reforms, which will only delay important projects, drive up costs and further erode any value from the infrastructure law.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

April 26-27: The Financial Times hosts its “Future Cities Americas” summit.

Rep. Patrick McHenry

McHenry

April 27, 9 a.m.: Punchbowl News interviews Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

April 27, 9:30 a.m.: Senate Commerce Committee meets with Secretary Gina Raimondo.

April 27, 2 p.m.: The House Highways and Transit Subcommittee examines transportation workforce programs.

April 27, 2:30 p.m.: The House Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meets for a hearing on the fiscal 2023 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.

April 28, 10 a.m.: The House Science, Space and Technology Committee meets for a hearing on climate change.

April 28, 10:30 a.m.: A Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meets with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Freight Corridor

The view from the Chamber.

Legislative Docket

Rep. Bobby Scott

Scott

The House Education and Labor Committee on April 5 gave partisan backing to an update of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bill would reauthorize WIOA programs for six years. It also would fund workforce development systems to ensure prospective employees gain access to long-term careers.

“Underinvesting in workforce development allows other economies to outcompete us,” committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said. “While other developed countries spend half to 1% of their gross domestic product on workforce development, the United States only spends one-tenth of 1%. Our nation’s economy has a stake in how well we do our job here today.”

Buzz

The nomination of Robin Hutcheson to be the next administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is on the Commerce Committee’s radar. Biden nominated Hutcheson to become administrator of the trucking regulatory agency April 6. A former deputy assistant secretary for safety policy for USDOT, she serves as FMCSA acting administrator.

If Hutcheson’s hearing gains approval from a majority of members on the panel, her nomination advances to the Senate floor for consideration. “We congratulate Deputy Administrator Hutcheson on her nomination to head FMCSA, and we support her swift confirmation by the Senate,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said after the White House announced her nomination.

Favorite Video

Secretary Pete goes for The View treatment.

Favorite Tweet

And, about that commute …

The Last Word

President Biden should be unleashing the untapped potential of America’s natural resources to lower gas prices and make us safer.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on April 6

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

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.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: