US rail industry defends safety record amid staffing cuts
Several major unions say the significant staff cuts railroads have made in recent years could jeopardize safety, but the major railroads say the new operating model they have adopted is simply helping them become more efficient and hasn’t made the railroads riskier.
Buttigieg pitches 'once in a generation' infrastructure fix
Buttigieg says America's infrastructure needs exceed $1 trillion and that other countries like China are pulling ahead. It's a disparity that Buttigieg is calling a threat to our collective future in prepared remarks to Congress. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called for a once in a generation infrastructure investment Thursday that would address a massive backlog in needed improvements for the nation's roads, bridges and transit systems, while also tackling climate change. “A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill — not the Green New Deal,” said Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, referring to a sweeping Democratic plan to shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. We can do this.”At the same time, DeFazio said an infrastructure bill will need to focus on the challenges of the 21st century, a nod to climate change.
Pelosi pledges swift work on major infrastructure package
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday pledged swift work by Congress on a job and infrastructure package that will be “fiscally sound,” but said she isn't sure whether the next major item on President Joe Biden’s agenda will attract Republican backing. AdBut work on passing infrastructure legislation in a Senate split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris providing a tiebreaking vote will probably prove more difficult. Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently made clear he will block infrastructure legislation if Republicans aren't included. 3 Senate Republican, said he wants to see bipartisan support for an infrastructure legislation. Cost will be a major hurdle in passing an infrastructure plan.
Democratic push to revive earmarks divides Republicans
A dirty word for many Republicans is making the rounds on Capitol Hill -- earmarks. It's a question that's vexing Republicans as they consider whether to join a Democratic push to revive earmarks, the much-maligned practice where lawmakers direct federal spending to a specific project or institution back home. Democratic appropriators in the House see a solution and are proposing a revamped process allowing lawmakers to submit public requests for “community project funding” in federal spending bills. The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, said earmarks would not increase the amount of money spent in a bill. “That’s something I feel pretty strongly about.”Norman worries that earmarks would be used to entice Republicans to vote for bills with expensive price tags.
IG faults Elaine Chao at Transportation over ethics concerns
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2019 file photo Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington. Scott Applewhite)The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year over concerns that she misused her office when she was transportation secretary under President Donald Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report released Wednesday. According to department emails, Chao directed her staff to include her relatives in the official events and high-level meetings during the trip. The IG report said Justice Department officials ultimately declined to take up a criminal review, saying there “may be ethical and/or administrative issues” but no evidence to support possible criminal charges. As a result, the inspector general's office said in the report it was now closing its investigation “based on the lack of prosecutorial interest” from the Justice Department.
Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief
Biden and his team have begun discussions on the possible outlines of an infrastructure package with members of Congress, particularly mindful that Texas' recent struggles with power outages and water shortages after a brutal winter storm present an opportunity for agreement on sustained spending on infrastructure. At a conference with state and local highway officials Thursday, he referred to the often-promised, never-achieved mega-initiative on roads, bridges and the like from the Trump administration. Much of America's infrastructure — roads, bridges, public drinking and water systems, dams, airports, mass transit systems and more — is in need of major restoration after years of underfunding, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Democrats passed a $1.5 trillion package in the House last year, but it went nowhere with the Trump administration and the Republican-led Senate. Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the AP that he foresees a comprehensive House package that will go beyond roads, bridges and public transit.
Federal watchdog blasts FAA over certification of Boeing jet
The inspector general issued 14 recommendations to “restore confidence in FAA’s certification process and ensure the highest level of safety” in future passenger planes. While FAA test pilots knew about changes to the flight system, called MCAS, some key FAA personnel, including engineers, did not. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the report indicated concealment by Boeing and negligence by the FAA. AdThe same inspector general’s office reported last year that Boeing failed to disclose to the FAA changes it made to MCAS. In January, Boeing agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department to avoid prosecution for defrauding the FAA.
Senate investigators fault FAA over Boeing jet, safety
In a report released Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 the Senate Commerce Committee also said the FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers. In a report released Friday, the Senate Commerce Committee also said the FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers. Both grew out of concern about the agency's approval of the Boeing Max. The Senate report, however, criticized a key part of the FAA review. It said that Boeing “inappropriately influenced" FAA testing of pilot-reaction time to a nose-down pitch of the plane.
Paris train attack hero makes bid for Congress from Oregon
This summer, the worst wildfires on record burned in Oregon, with climate change and overgrown forests worsening fire conditions. A possible factor in Skarlatos' favor: Thousands of students at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, who would normally vote in those towns, are learning remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic. His name recognition went only so far, said Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University. Of his campaign war chest, over 60% comes from out of state, DeFazio said during their debate. Several GOP state lawmakers display the group's regalia in their Capitol offices.
Democratic proposal for more airline aid stalls in Congress
Travellers check in at a United Airlines kiosk with help from a United employee in the main terminal of Denver International Airport Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Denver. Earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged airlines to delay 32,000 furloughs that began this week while Congress considered DeFazio's bill. American Airlines and United Airlines held back, however, saying they would wait for Congress to approve the money before recalling furloughed workers. Congress approved $25 billion in payroll aid six months ago in hopes that the travel industry might be stronger by fall. On top of that, American is furloughing 19,000 workers, United is cutting 13,000, and Alaska furloughed about 500.
FAA chief tests changes to Boeing's grounded 737 Max
A Boeing 737 MAX jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson, takes off on a test flight from Boeing Field, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Seattle. The MAX was grounded worldwide in early March 2019 after the second of two fatal accidents that together killed 346 people aboard almost-new aircraft. Dickson said he landed the plane twice and also did “some air work maneuvers.”The Max has been grounded since March 2019, after the second crash. Zipporah Kuria, a British citizen whose father died in the second Max crash, called Dickson's flight “a gimmick” to reassure the public. Dickson said the FAA is working closely with other global regulators and being transparent in its review of the plane.
Panel's report blasts Boeing, FAA for crashes, seeks reforms
But both the agency and Boeing have said certification of the Max complied with FAA regulations, the 246-page report said. He said the committee won't scrap the delegation program, and he hopes to reach agreement on reforms before year's end. Committee investigators said they found several instances in which Boeing concealed information about MCAS from the FAA and airlines. But there was no evidence that they reported this to the FAA, the report said. According to the report, Boeing wanted to keep details about MCAS from the FAA so it wouldn't require additional pilot training.
Veteran House incumbents cling to seats as districts evolve
But there’s a smaller category of lawmakers like Peterson and GOP Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio who also merit attention: long-term incumbents of both parties fighting to preserve their careers. Over 90% of House incumbents are usually reelected, thanks to name recognition and campaign fundraising advantages. “There are people who traditionally voted Republican who don't identify with the current Republican Party," Schroder, 43, a businesswoman and local public health official, said in an interview. Democratic and Republican campaign committees and other organizations allied with party leadership are aiming the bulk of their spending at each others' softest seats and defending vulnerable incumbents. The Congressional Leadership Fund, aligned with House GOP leadership, planned to spend $3.3 million more, which Republicans said could grow.
Airlines, unions pin hopes for more payroll cash on politics
Unions are gaining support in Congress for another $32 billion in federal aid to protect airline workers from layoffs for another six months. In March, companies got $32 billion to help cover payroll costs for six months in exchange for not laying off workers. Thirteen airline unions have joined to lobby Congress for a six-month extension of the payroll provision. Major airlines support the extension, but they are keeping a low profile. American Airlines notified 25,000 workers, Delta Air Lines warned more than 2,500 pilots, and smaller airlines also sent out notices.
Spirit warns of layoffs; aid for contractors being examined
Separately, key members of Congress said they are investigating aviation contractors that took federal payroll aid and then laid off thousands of workers. Airlines and airline contractors who received cash from a $32 billion pool of federal payroll aid agreed not to lay off workers until Oct. 1. Airline labor unions are lobbying Congress for six more months of federal aid. Some contractors who received money laid off workers anyway, according to three Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. At Spirit, the pilots union said it was notified Wednesday that 806 pilots could be furloughed, or terminated with rehiring rights.
Support in House for $32B more for airlines but fate unclear
House backers of the aid provision released a letter Monday in which 195 Democrats and 28 Republicans endorsed further payroll aid to the airline industry. Without further relief from Congress, mass layoffs among airline industry workers are inevitable and their magnitude will eclipse those of any furloughs the industry has ever seen, House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and other lawmakers wrote in the letter to House and Senate leaders. Thirteen airline unions endorsed the House letter. Airlines that took the money agreed not to furlough workers or cut their pay rates or benefits. The nations four biggest airlines lost a combined $10 billion from April through June.
House approves $1.5T plan to fix crumbling infrastructure
Democrats hailed the House bill, which goes far beyond transportation to fund schools, health care facilities, public utilities and affordable housing. The White House promised a veto if the measure reaches the president's desk. No formal proposal has emerged, although the White House has suggested the next virus response bill could include an infrastructure component. The centerpiece of the House legislation is a nearly $500 billion, 5-year surface transportation plan for roads, bridges and railways. The White House said in its veto threat that the proposal is heavily skewed toward programs that would disproportionately benefit Americas urban areas."
Democrats protest removal of Transportation watchdog
The Democratic chairs of three House panels on Tuesday demanded that Mitch Behm be reinstated immediately as acting inspector general. Behm's removal is the latest in a series of politically motivated firings of inspectors general by President Trump,'' the lawmakers wrote. a career employee who has served as acting inspector general since January. Trump has designated Howard Elliott, head of a Transportation Department agency that oversees pipeline safety, to replace Behm as acting inspector general. Still, the lawmakers asked for information regarding ongoing audits, inspections, investigations, evaluations, reviews and other communications regarding Behm's removal and Elliotts qualifications to be inspector general.