Legislative Activity

Congress Begins Evaluating FY 2018 Transportation Appropriations

This week, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies will hold hearings on FY 2018 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will testify on Tuesday at the Senate Subcommittee hearing and on Thursday at the House Subcommittee hearing.

The President’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal would fully fund highway and transit formula programs at their FAST Act-authorized levels, but would eliminate funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and limit funding for the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program, commonly known as New Starts/Small Starts, to current projects. However, there is significant Congressional support for the TIGER grant program and the New Starts/Small Starts program and it is not likely the final FY 2018 appropriations will reflect the FY 2018 Budget Proposal’s elimination of funding for these programs. The Budget also proposes to end all General Fund transfers to the Highway Trust Fund, effectively resulting in a $95 billion cut in surface transportation funding over seven years, starting with FY 2021. This aspect of the 2018 Budget proposal is unrelated to FY 2018 spending decisions, so should be seen more as call for greater fiscal discipline – no more General Fund supplements to the Highway Trust Fund – than as a budget priority for the coming fiscal year.

There is likely not sufficient time before the start of FY 2018 to consider all 12 appropriations bills individually and Congress may move directly to an Omnibus appropriations act for FY 2018. We expect that program funding levels in the Congressional transportation appropriations bills will vary significantly from the President’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal.

President Held Events Focused on Infrastructure Initiative

Last week, President Trump held several events intended to increase Congress’ and the Nation’s focus on the President’s infrastructure proposal.

On Monday, the President held a White House event on air traffic control (ATC) reform, during which he supported a proposal similar to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) ATC reform proposal included in the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act in 2016. The President’s proposal was met with responses ranging from trepidation to opposition from many stakeholder groups. Opposition to Chairman Shuster’s ATC reform proposal stalled the AIRR Act in the last Congress.

On Tuesday, the President gave a speech about the Nation’s inland waterways. On Thursday the President met with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors to discuss infrastructure. The meeting was intended to be a listening session for the White House, and staff asked the mayors and governors present to discuss the largest federal impediments to completing infrastructure projects. On Friday the President held an event at DOT focused on “Roads and Rail Regulatory Reform.” The President discussed streamlining the environmental and permitting process, announced the development of a council to assist cities and states to navigate the review process, and discussed establishing a “dashboard” to help the public track major infrastructure projects throughout the permitting process.

President Trump Appoints Daniel Elwell as Deputy Administrator at FAA

President Trump is appointing Daniel Elwell to do be the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Elwell previously served as the FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Policy under President George W. Bush.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, June 13, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection has scheduled a hearing titled “Disrupter Series: Update on IOT [Internet of Things] Opportunities and Challenges.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Tuesday, June 13, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Elaine Chao, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • On Wednesday, June 14, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Paving the Way for Self-Driving Vehicles.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
    • Rob Csongor, Vice President and General Manager of Automotive Business, NVIDIA Corporation
    • John Maddox, President and CEO, American Center for Mobility
    • Colleen Sheehey-Church, National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • On Thursday, June 15, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Department of Transportation budget hearing. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Elaine Chao, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation