Aviation

All of a Sudden, a Busy House Floor Schedule
Legislative to-do list grows ahead of 2018 midterms

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., left, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have a lot of bills they’re planning to bring to the floor in the coming weeks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House’s legislative wheels are kicking into high gear this week.

After four months of mostly sleepy floor activity — not counting the protracted fiscal 2018 spending fight that led to two partial government shutdowns and a few other bills, like a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration — the House has enough major legislation coming out of its committees to fill the floor schedule for the next two to three months.

Opinion: This Is Not a Drill. It’s Actually Infrastructure Week
Congress and Trump are spinning their wheels. But why should all our hopes hang on Washington?

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao delivers remarks during last year’s Infrastructure Week kickoff event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chao pointed to the repair of the I-85 Atlanta highway bridge, which collapsed after a fire, as an example of a successful public-private project. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

Starting today, it’s officially Infrastructure Week — as in the annual bipartisan event, not a themed White House push. Remember last year, when optimism was high that Congress and President Donald Trump would soon begin work on a comprehensive infrastructure plan? This year, not so much. The lamentations have already begun: “There’s always next year.”

At forums from coast to coast this week, we’ll hear about the dismal state of our nation’s infrastructure. From the lives lost when bridges fail, to the mounting number of potholes and leaky pipes going unrepaired, the decline of our infrastructure harms Americans every single day.

Voters Reward a Do-Something Congress. Wrong, Recent Results Show
Some midterm years are policy voids, others historic. Either way, voters tend to shake things up

Sound and fury signifying few achievements might describe what Congress has accomplished this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Four years ago, the second session of the 113th Congress was widely identified as one of the most profoundly unproductive stretches at the Capitol in the run-up to a midterm election.

And yet the achievements of that divided Congress tower over the minimalist aspirations for this year held by the Republicans unilaterally in charge of the Hill. The limit on federal debt was raised in 2014, federal flood insurance premiums were rolled back, dozens of new waterway and environmental projects were authorized, a five-year farm bill was finished and, most notably, a generous deal was struck for improving veterans’ medical care.

With a Taste of Regular Order on FAA Bill, Members Want More
Rank and file not optimistic that rule allowing 116 amendments will be used on future bills

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., left, and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., will lead House debate on a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill with 116 amendments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the modern Congress, it’s almost unheard of for the House to vote on 100-plus amendments to a bill, as the chamber will do Thursday and Friday during debate on a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rank-and-file members had little explanation for the sudden procedural openness, although some speculated it was related to the bipartisan nature of the FAA measure and the availability of floor time given the slim election-year legislative agenda.

Spending Bill, Tariffs Drive Lobbying as 2018 Elections Approach
Future uncertainty also plays major role

K Street sign at 15th and K Streets in Washington, D.C. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An omnibus appropriations package, steel tariffs, regulatory work on the new tax law and general uncertainty about the nation’s direction on policy and governing fueled K Street business during the first three months of this year.

The politics of the coming November midterm elections will consume the Capitol for much of the rest of 2018, as lawmakers debate a farm bill, possible new disclosures for social media companies and federal spending beyond Sept. 30.  

Fearing New Government Rules, Tech Titans Promise Security Vigilance
Lawmakers also may be likely to push for new legislation

Cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand on the East Lawn of the Capitol ahead of his testimony on the Hill on April 10. The tech industry increasingly is questioning its security practices. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

SAN FRANCISCO — New European privacy rules, the spotlight on Facebook’s role in the 2016 elections, and the potential that cyberattacks targeting devices could harm consumers in their homes are propelling the tech industry to question its security practices and prompting top executives to promise to make amends.

During five days at the annual RSA Conference last week in San Francisco, top executives from the world’s largest technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, CISCO, McAfee and Symantec, said they took the scrutiny seriously and would not only step up to make their own devices and software safer but also work with thousands of vendors worldwide urging them to do the same.

FAA Authorization Headed for House Floor Vote Next Week
Changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy also being considered

The House is voting next week on a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

The House will vote next week on a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and change disaster relief policy to focus more on mitigation than recovery.

In a statement Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster said the House would vote on an aviation bill that would reauthorize the FAA through fiscal 2023 as well as include provisions of a bill previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy.

Don’t Expect a Dramatic Finish as Ryan Runs to the Tape
Retiring speaker unlikely to rock the boat during the midterms

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is not running for re-election. But that may not give him any more freedom to do what he wants. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan retiring after this Congress ends in January, he seemingly has newfound freedom to either make a stronger push for conservative policy priorities or strike bipartisan grand bargains with Democrats.

In reality, the Wisconsin Republican has little room to do either — at least not until after November.

Big Plans for Infrastructure Fade to Business as Usual
As lawmakers return from recess, their infrastructure agenda looks a lot like any other year’s

While President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan seem to be on the same page when they talk about breaking up an infrastructure overhaul into several bills, many of those smaller measures would have happened anyway. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers returning from a two-week recess Monday may find that the debate over infrastructure looks a lot like routine congressional discussion of transportation bills.

Congress will go to work on aviation reauthorization and waterway and port projects, setting aside a comprehensive infrastructure plan favored by the administration for more discussions.

Congress Returns, With Eyes Off the Floors
Committee activity will be headlined by Zuckerberg and Trump Cabinet picks

Senate GOP leadership likely did not anticipate reserving chunks of time ahead of the midterms this year for Cabinet-level posts that were already filled. Pictured above, from left: Sens. Cory Gardner, John Barrasso and Roy Blunt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress returns Monday after two weeks away, but much of the focus will be on the action outside the House and Senate chambers.

The highlight of the week will be hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg amid the ongoing fallout from the social media giant’s admission that user data was improperly shared with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.