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March 25, 2019 3:00 PM, EDT

U.S. Chamber (Again) Pledges to Support Hill Proponents of Fuel Tax Increase

Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue will advocate for members of Congress who step up in support of a fuel tax hike to pay for infrastructure costs. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce via YouTube)

Before senators press Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao this week about the all-options-on-the-table approach for funding infrastructure projects, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been extremely clear about one thing: If you’re for raising fuel taxes, they have your back.

“This is the only tax that the chamber ever supported increasing,” Ed Mortimer, the chamber’s vice president for Transportation and Infrastructure said March 19 at a legislative conference hosted by the American Public Transportation Association.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

Chamber CEO Tom Donohue’s agenda for the year has included sounding the alarm about the country’s infrastructure. And, he’s been calling on lawmakers to act on the gas and diesel tax. Since January, Donohue has met with reporters, convened high-profile meetings and testified before Congress to say: Endorse raising the Clinton-era fuel tax rate to ensure long-term funding for transportation projects, and the chamber will back you.

“Our CEO is basically out there saying, look, if a member of Congress is willing to take a vote on revenue for infrastructure — whether they’re Republican, Democrat or Independent — he’s going to go to the district. If they get grief in a primary, he’s going to go to their district. And, that’s what is going to take to get this done,” Mortimer added. “We have to stand up for elected leaders who are willing to take this tough vote.”

While more than half of the states have approved increasing their fuel taxes, it’s been nearly three decades since members of Congress took this “tough vote.”

A few top Democrats already are encouraging colleagues to consider an increase, and even fewer Republican transportation leaders say they have not ruled out any funding options. Of course, presidential leadership will play a key role in the infrastructure debate. And, President Donald Trump recently had this to say, “We like the type of infrastructure we’re talking about. Maybe, in a certain way, more Democrat, from my standpoint, than the Republican concept.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern):

Spotlight Hearing

March 27, 10 a.m.: Secretary Elaine Chao is scheduled to appear at the Senate transportation funding committee to defend President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request.

March 25, 9:30 a.m.: The International Energy Agency hosts a webinar titled, “Global Energy and CO2 Status Report.” Participants include IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

March 26, 10 a.m.: The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee meets to review the recovery funds for hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

March 26, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hosts a hearing titled, “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investment in our Nation’s Airports Matters.”

March 27, 10 a.m.: The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meets for a meeting titled, “Our Blue Economy: Successes and Opportunities.”

Robert Sumwalt of NTSB

Sumwalt

March 27, 3 p.m.: The Aviation and Space Subcommittee meets on airline safety. Witnesses include Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Calvin Scovel, Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Daniel Elwell, acting administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration.

March 28, 8 a.m.: Axios hosts an event titled, “Transforming Transportation.” House Highways and Transit Subcommittee leaders Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) are scheduled to participate.

Mood Swings

When the president insists an issue is capable of garnering bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill, there’s reason to believe. Still, the transportation community continues to ask: Where’s the bill?

 

In Case You Missed It

Presidential aspirant Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is not a real spokesperson for a gas tax hike.

Who’s New

Robert Turner

Turner

From the Senate committee that oversees trucking policy, comes a chief of investigations.

That’s right.

Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced recently that former U.S. Marshals officer Robert Turner will lead the panel’s oversight and investigatory portfolio.

 

Buzz

Sources on Capitol Hill tell Transport Topics advancing an autonomous vehicles legislation is just not a major priority right now.

Favorite Video

The future is now.

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Dateline: Show Me State

The Last Word

It was just announced there was no collusion with Russia.

President Donald Trump on March 24, reacting to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Donald Trump

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