DC Update: Congress Avoids a Government Shutdown

A report on government actions that could affect the remote-production industry

Congress breathed a sigh of relief over the weekend when it avoided a shutdown by striking a deal to fund the government through what is left of fiscal 2017.

How to fund the infrastructure package was, yet again, another topic discussed by top lawmakers this week. Last Friday, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao met with members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to talk about public-private infrastructure investments and how they contribute to jobs and a strong economy. However, several Senate Republicans voiced concerns that the administration’s infrastructure plan will focus too much on public-private partnerships, which are problematic in rural areas.

On Monday, President Trump announced that he “would certainly consider” raising the gas tax, noting that truckers are in favor of it. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer qualified the statement by emphasizing that it was not an “endorsement of [raising the gas tax] or support for it” but it is under consideration. Raising the gas tax would have an effect on the remote-production industry, so look for updates on how this unfolds.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also mentioned on Monday that it is unlikely the administration will pair an infrastructure plan and a tax overhaul because of the complexity of each issue. Even still, Trump insisted that infrastructure will be done very quickly, and the plan will be released over the “next two or three weeks, maybe sooner.”

On Tuesday, airline executives — including United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz — were called to the Hill to discuss customer-service improvements. The hearing was mainly an opportunity for lawmakers to reprimand airlines for what they believe to be unacceptable customer service, and it is possible that lawmakers may opt to address some of the issues raised — such as clarifying when airlines can bump passengers off flights and simplifying contracts of carriage — in the next FAA-reauthorization bill.

On Wednesday, the House voted 309-118 to pass an omnibus spending package, which would give funding levels an update for the rest of fiscal 2017. The Senate is likely to clear the bill before the end of the week, when funding would expire. The bill provides $2.4 billion for transit Capital Investment Grants and $150 million for the Essential Air Service program.

United Airlines’ Oscar Munoz testifying about customer service

On Thursday, United Airlines endured another round of questions, but this time from members of the Senate Commerce aviation panel.

Thursday also marked the one-day countdown until DOT appropriations run out and 149 days until FAA reauthorization expires. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,246 days.

The House Transportation Committee announced that it will visit Canada May 25-26 to see its air-traffic–control system. Watch for next week’s update for all the latest DC news.

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