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October 18, 2021 3:15 PM, EDT

Supply Chains Dominate Secretary Pete’s Schedule

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg "Every item you see, every container on every ship that is waiting at anchor … is there because an American company or consumer purchased it," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg News)

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Congress is back at it this week to keep negotiating pieces of infrastructure legislation that continue to take up the oxygen on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the country’s top transportation officer, is making the media rounds to update the nation about the crises across the supply chains.

On NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Oct. 17, he said, “We’re doing everything we can for the short term and the long term. And there are some ‘x’ factors out there on everything from, you know, pandemic-related closures of factories and ports in Asia, to things that are going on through the chain on the U.S. side.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

“Now, of course, the other thing we’ve got to talk about is that this isn’t just a matter of supply. This is a matter of supply and demand. Every item you see, every container on every ship that is waiting at anchor in the ports of [Los Angeles] and Long Beach, or anywhere else, is there because an American company or consumer purchased it,” the secretary of transportation told Chuck Todd.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Buttigieg shared a similar sentiment: “Our role is to be an honest broker, bring together all of the different players there, secure commitments and get solutions that are going to make it easier.”

Prior to the Sunday shows, he had appeared on NPR and other outlets to reassure audiences about the administration’s aims at resolving the crises.

This is the first key step toward moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain, nationwide, to a 24/7 system.

President Joe Biden on Oct. 13

President Joe Biden

A key proposal the Biden White House announced recently was the public and private commitment meant to facilitate the flow of freight via 24/7 operations at the critical West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. As President Joe Biden explained last week, “After weeks of negotiation and working with my team and with the major union and retailers and freight movers … the Port of Los Angeles announced today that it’s going to … begin operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

“This is the first key step toward moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain, nationwide, to a 24/7 system,” Biden said Oct. 13.

Supply chain-centric proposals included in the president’s Build Back Better agenda are gaining attention. A funding proposal in what ultimately could be the budget reconciliation package calls for $2.5 billion for expanding access at the ports. It’s unclear when Congress will vote on the Build Back Better bill.

Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

Democrats are engaged in intraparty disputes over the budget package’s top line. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are leading a push for a budget bill that’s somewhere less than $2 trillion. To arrive at $2 trillion, from $3.5 trillion, and gain support from Manchin and company, policymakers might need to discard certain climate and energy regulatory proposals. Moderates in the House, such as Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), share a similar sentiment as they continue to call for passage of the Senate-passed $1 trillion infrastructure measure, which includes the new highway authorization bill.

We’re hearing negotiations are ongoing but not moving as fast as proponents would like. Therefore, extensions are very likely for the 2015 FAST Act highway law, which is operating on an extension that expires Oct. 31. Government funding authority expires Dec. 3, and without another short-term funding bill in place by early December, the government could be looking at a partial shutdown. The debt ceiling also is projected to hit Dec. 3. As we said in “Capitol Agenda” last week, federal transportation observers say they won’t be surprised to see Congress wait weeks or even days before Christmas to pass the all-of-the-above agenda. Till then, hysteria over the possibility that holiday gifts won’t arrive on time is bound to persist.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Oct. 20, 10 a.m.: The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Achieving Mission Balance: Positioning the Coast Guard for the Future.” Watch here.

Oct. 20, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee considers the nomination of Meera Joshi to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Watch here

Oct. 21, 10 a.m.: The House Aviation Subcommittee meets to examine the Federal Aviation Administration’s implementation of the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act.

Freight Corridor

Grassroots activism and Sen. Sinema collide.

Legislative Docket

Rep. Donald McEachin

McEachin

The House Natural Resources Committee this month advanced legislation that would require oil and gas facility operators to alert the Department of Interior of equipment failures across critical systems. The notification would need to be provided within 30 days.

The Offshore Accountability Act is meant to update industry reporting standards as a way of augmenting transparency of critical pipeline systems, according to its sponsor, Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.).

“Passage of the Offshore Accountability Act is an important step toward greater transparency and accountability of the offshore oil and gas industry,” he said.

Buzz

The White House team is running a full-court press to promote the Build Back Better agenda. Last week, Biden was in Connecticut to promote social infrastructure proposals. Congressional proponents of the plan are hitting cable news, calling for passage of the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills. Debate related to the president’s agenda has reached the Virginia governor’s race. Democratic candidate (and former governor) Terry McAuliffe, caught in a tight race with GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin, is saying any or partial approval of Biden’s plan would resonate with some voters. Election day is Nov. 2.

Favorite Video

That time when the guy from Priceline went to space.

Favorite Tweet

Another very Washington moment.

The Last Word

I’m very disappointed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Oct. 12

Nancy Pelosi

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

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