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October 25, 2021 11:00 AM, EDT

Will Highway Funding Deadline Spur Bigger Deal?

Sen. John Barrasso Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is critical of the Democrats' social spending plan, saying the citizens who end up paying for it are the ones living on fixed incomes. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Trucking industry executives and insiders are at the home of the country music industry this week to celebrate commercial drivers’ contributions, and outline forward-looking strategies designed to address supply chain woes.

Transport Topics caught up with American Trucking Associations Chairman and Garner Trucking CEO Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, who captured the essence of ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition.

“The takeaway for me, and I think, my peers, is that we’re here for America. We’re here to improve the supply chain. We’re part of the supply chain.” She continued, “We’re proud of what we do. We’re proud of our truck drivers, and we’re proud of the industry.”

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

The trucking industry is among stakeholders looking to Washington for guidance on potential funding and programs meant to facilitate the flow of freight and passengers throughout mobility corridors, especially at the ports.

True to form, federal lawmakers are working on a tight deadline on transportation policy matters. The authorization of a 2015 highway law expires Oct. 31. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), insisting her caucus is finalizing a framework to set up a vote on aspects of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, agreed there is urgency for approving a surface transportation policy update.

We’re here for America. We’re here to improve the supply chain. We’re part of the supply chain.

Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, American Trucking Associations Chairman

Sherri Garner Brumbaugh

“In terms of this date, this date is fraught with meaning because, on Oct. 31 is the day that the Highway Trust Fund authorization expires,” the speaker told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Oct. 24. “If that expires, we have to get billions of dollars someplace to continue that. The best way to do that is to pass the [bipartisan infrastructure framework], having nothing to do with all the other, shall we say, deliberations that are going on. Our chair of the committee, [Rep.] Peter DeFazio [D-Ore.], who is a master of this, of the Infrastructure; Transportation [and] Infrastructure Committee, has said we must pass this right by Oct. 31.”

RELATED: Biden-Manchin meeting makes progress

Since our last update, congressional Democratic leaders appear ready to present a Build Back Better social infrastructure budget plan of about $1.75 trillion (give or take a few billion). Negotiators, aiming to pursue a fast-track budget reconciliation process, suggest the new price tag, previously $3.5 trillion, would be accepted by various moderates and Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Some congressional observers say only time will tell since it remains unclear whether the diverse Democratic caucus is truly behind the new, new budget agreement/framework.

House GOP Leadership Letter to White House by Transport Topics on Scribd

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are directing their focus on rising fuel prices and supply chain crises at commercial ports. In a recent letter to POTUS, 160 House GOP members said: “We request that you stop the litany of harmful regulatory actions that are driving up energy costs and to stop attacking the American businesses with vaccine mandates, taxation and government handouts that are disincentivizing work.”

Adding for emphasis, “Further consideration of your massive expansion of social spending, paid for by anti-competitive tax increases on small businesses and families, only stands to worsen the supply chain crisis.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a senior member of his caucus, echoed House colleagues’ sentiment, telling reporters: “The White House is tone deaf on this ’cause even the chief of staff called inflation a high-class problem. Well, let me just tell the chief of staff at the White House and his boss, the president, that the people who are ending up paying for your mismanagement are people living on fixed incomes.”

Build Back Better uncertainty and GOP pushback make for a political landscape that could turn into an actual Infrastructure Week.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Oct. 25-26: American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition continues at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Oct. 26, 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Are FEMA’s Assistance Programs Adequately Designed to Assist Communities Before, During and After Wildfire?”

Oct. 26, 10 a.m.: The Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.” Watch hearing here.

Oct. 27, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing to consider nominees for positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission. Watch hearing here.

Freight Corridor

Analysis courtesy of NBC News’ political unit.

Legislative Docket

Appropriations season got interesting with funding leaders in the U.S. Senate unveiling this month fiscal 2022 legislation that would boost funding for federal transportation programs. Under the legislation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the country’s trucking regulator, would receive $288 million for safety operations and programs. For the agency’s safety grants, the Senate funding committee is proposing $393.8 million. The draft Senate bill would provide $29.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for the U.S. Department of Transportation, a $3.8 billion increase over the enacted fiscal 2021 level, according to a staff summary. Of note, federal funding authority expires Dec. 3.

Buzz

U.S. House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) offered reaction about the retirement of Rep. David Price (D-N.C.). The congressman chaired the transportation funding subcommittee.

Said DeLauro, “Befitting his background as an expert in public policy, Rep. Price has been a hardworking, thoughtful and principled legislator. He is a master of his brief, and my colleagues and I have consistently drawn on his unparalleled knowledge and wise counsel.”

First elected in 1986, Price was defeated in 1994 before regaining his seat in 1996.

Favorite Video

Spotlighting the City of Bridges.

Favorite Tweet

Dateline: Music City

The Last Word

Returning to a ban on oil exports is short-sighted and should not even be entertained as a response to the higher gas prices we are seeing right now.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Oct. 9

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

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

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