Chao talks gas tax, driverless cars at infrastructure week kickoff – politico gas variables pogil extension questions


— Of course, Chao mentioned that the Trump administration released an infrastructure proposal earlier this year. “And we hope that there will be a bipartisan effort to talk about how we can rebuild, repair our crumbling infrastructure,” she said, including working with lawmakers to “cross this difficult divide as to how to fund and finance our infrastructure.”

— Chao went over some of the pros and cons of the gas tax and vehicle miles traveled. She said there are 16 or 17 “different financing, funding mechanisms, and every single one of them has their advocate, but every single one of them has their detractors as well.” Asked whether lawmakers have been receptive to discussing pay-fors, Chao said: “Yes is the short answer, but it varies.”

— Bolten was White House chief of staff and Chao was Labor secretary during the George W. Bush administration. Bolten said that when Chao “had something she needed to get to the attention of the president … she didn’t try to set up an appointment or anything like that. She waited until roughly 7 or 7:30 p.m., when she knew I would be in my office working without anything on the schedule and relatively unprotected — and so that’s when the call would come in from Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.” Asked whether she calls current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Chao said: “I’m never one to call and tell.”

HAPPY TUESDAY!: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Stephanie is driving you through Infrastructure Week. Send all your scoops, tips and song requests to her at or @Steph_Beasley.

Lady driver let me take the wheel / Smooth operator / Touch my bumper (Bumper) / Hey, let’s make a deal, make it real / Like a road runner / Coming after you / Just like a hero outta the blue/ I’ll be your non-stop lover / Get it while you can / Your non-stop miracle / I’m your man

SENATE FAA BILL STILL UP IN THE AIR: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) indicated Monday that the Senate hasn’t yet determined whether its FAA bill will include a disaster relief title as the House’s legislation did. “I mean, if we did, we’d have to add it as a manager’s amendment on the floor, and I don’t think we’ve had those discussions yet, but we will,” Thune told reporters. That manager’s amendment would also address the pilot-training language that has held back the Senate’s bill, he said. Thune has said that he hopes the Senate will consider its bill on the floor before July 4. “There’s plenty of candidates for floor action, and so [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] will ultimately have to make the decision when that happens,” Thune said. “But I’ve indicated to him that we’re ready to go whenever he is.”

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The Senate Appropriations Committee issued a very advanced copy of its markup schedule on Monday. The panel is slated to take up Energy-Water and Agriculture-FDA spending bills next week. Transportation-HUD will come up the week of June 4-8 and then Homeland Security the week of June 18-22.

SNIP, SNIP: Our colleagues at POLITICO Pro Budget and Appropriations report that DOT would be hard hit by cuts included in President Donald Trump’s rescission package. Trump’s plan would slash transportation funding by $224 million through 2028. It would reduce the federal budget by $15.4 billion overall, but would only save $1.3 billion over the next decade, according to CBO. Pros can read a full breakdown of the proposed cuts by department here.

NOT NOW, NOT EVER? The United States and United Arab Emirates on Monday officially unveiled their agreement related to Open Skies, but those on opposing sides of the issue appear to be interpreting a “side letter” to the deal differently. The letter says that Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways don’t have current plans to grow so-called Fifth Freedom flights to the United States, per the Associated Press. The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies — which includes Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines as well as labor groups — said “the UAE has committed to a freeze on any additional ‘fifth freedom’ passenger flights.” Meanwhile, a UAE official said in a statement that “there is no freeze on or any change to operating rights. The UAE’s international airlines can plan and begin new service, including Fifth Freedom flights, without limits and consistent with” the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and UAE. The matter arose during a briefing for industry with Trump administration officials, according to a transcript released by the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies.

ANIMAL FARM: American Airlines announced plans to roll out new requirements for service animal starting July 1, including notification requirements, documentation related to animal behaviors, and additional restrictions for certain animals, including insects, hedgehogs and goats. Suzanna Boda, American’s senior vice president for Los Angeles, described the policy changes on the airline’s podcast. American is the latest major carrier to enact new measures to reduce what they say has been an increase in in-flight animal attacks and people trying to pass off pets as service animals.

USED TO BE MAD LOVE: Americans for Modern Transportation, a group that represents shippers and carriers such as Amazon and FedEx, said it is “disappointed” that the Association of American Railroads has come out in opposition of a proposal to increase twin trailer truck length standards to 33 feet. As MT reported earlier this week, AAR said it recently reached a consensus on the issue. Though some of its members has already come out against the proposed policy change. “The short-line railroads have determined that holding productivity hostage, as a means of holding back their competition, is more important than the travelers, consumers and businesses that would benefit from the safe and efficient movement of freight on our roads,” AMT said in a statement.

C’MON AND RIDE IT: The Eno Center for Transportation has released findings from a new study based on interviews with dozens of public and private stakeholders who said that today’s public transit maintenance practices are “inadequate to meet today’s challenges.” Agencies across the country need to improve their transit asset management programs and catch up to international best practices, according to Eno. The report, which also looks at the use of private contractors, found that while older systems continue to rely on in-house staff, newer systems are increasingly turning to private contractors for “even the most basic of needs.”

THINKING IT OVER: Many life insurance companies are interested in investing in infrastructure projects but are deterred by “structural complexity, inconsistent regulations and valuation methodologies, and an array of procedural hurdles,” according to a white paper issued by financial services provider TIAA. In addition to pushing for more consistent rules and expediting the project approval process nationally, the group is recommending the formation of an industry group on public-private partnerships at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

MT MAILBAG: Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King on Monday pressing for the agency to finalize and implement a rule that would require keyless ignition systems to alert drivers when the car is still running.

THE CHAPEL OF LOVE: Andrew Harding, counsel to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee married Jordan Forbes, who does government affairs for Virginia 529 and previously worked for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.). Pics: and (h/t POLITICO Playbook).