“The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection,” Politico reports.
“A group of 17 U.S. and foreign automakers wrote to President Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) this week, urging them to ‘resurrect’ talks in hopes of finding consensus on how fuel efficient cars and trucks must be in coming years,” the Washington Post reports.
“But White House officials have rebuffed the automakers’ request, saying there was no prospect of further negotiation with California regulator.”
“California has vowed to push ahead with its own, stricter fuel standards.”
New York Times: “Ms. Chao’s office had made a series of unorthodox requests related to her first scheduled visit to China as a Trump cabinet member, according to people with knowledge of the email. Among them: asking federal officials to help coordinate travel arrangements for at least one family member and include relatives in meetings with government officials.”
“In China, the Chaos are no ordinary family. They run an American shipping company with deep ties to the economic and political elite in China, where most of the company’s business is centered. The trip was abruptly canceled by Ms. Chao after the ethics question was referred to officials in the State and Transportation Department.”
“Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has retained shares in a construction-materials company more than a year after the date she promised to relinquish them,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Shares of the company, Vulcan Materials Co. , the country’s largest supplier of the crushed stone, sand and gravel used in road-paving and building, have risen nearly 13% since April 2018, the month in which Ms. Chao said she would be cashed out of the stock, netting her a more than $40,000 gain.”
“Business leaders and communities around the country are expressing alarm that the bitter partisan impasse in Washington is paralyzing efforts to revamp the nation’s deteriorating and outdated infrastructure,” the Washington Post reports.
Playbook: “Three weeks ago, Democrats left the White House optimistic, but realistic, about the chances of an infrastructure bill. TRUMP had agreed to spend $2 trillion on a massive infrastructure package — aides said he was giddy about the high number — and the two sides were to meet again to figure out how to pay for it. Trump, Democrats said, would come up with the funding scheme, and, indeed, policy staffers at the National Economic Council, Treasury and OMB started to work on various proposals.”
“Well, this wen about as well as any other infrastructure week. The White House is not going to present any plan to pay for rebuilding the nation’s roads and highways.”
Reuters: Democrats to press Trump on paying for infrastructure boost.
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blocked a bipartisan attempt to limit Chinese companies from contracting with U.S. transit systems, a move that benefited a Chinese government-backed manufacturer with a plant in his district,” the Washington Post reports.
“His behind-the-scenes intervention came as Congress was trying this year to craft a spending compromise to avert another government shutdown. McCarthy pressed lawmakers to strip out language that could have prevented the company in his district, BYD Motors, from winning federal contracts, and they relented because they feared imperiling the bill.”
President Trump accused Democrats of playing “a bit of game” on reaching an infrastructure deal, “saying he fears they will portray him as favoring a tax increase to pay for major investments in roads, rail, airports and other projects,” the Washington Post reports.
Said Trump: “But I also think we’re being played by the Democrats a little bit. You know, I think what they want me to do is say, ‘Well what we’ll do is raise taxes,’ and we’ll do this and this and this, and then they’ll have a news conference… ‘See, Trump wants to raise taxes.’ So it’s a little bit of a game.”
“A $2 trillion infrastructure deal outlined this week by President Trump and top Democrats is already losing momentum, as the president’s own chief of staff is telling people inside and outside the administration that the effort is too expensive and unlikely to succeed,” the Washington Post reports.
“The tentative accord to repair the nation’s roads, revitalize mass transit and expand broadband systems was reached at a private White House meeting Tuesday between Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress, who said they were pleasantly surprised by the president’s willingness to back a large-scale spending effort.”
“But the initiative has run into immediate opposition from Republicans who balk at the hefty price tag and from conservative allies who are pushing lawmakers to block it.”
President Trump trashed his own White House infrastructure plan released last year, blaming former economic adviser Gary Cohn for drafting a proposal that was “so stupid,” The Hill reports.
“Trump, meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), made clear that he was never supportive of the proposal calling for public-private partnerships because ‘you get sued.'”
Said Trump: “That was a Gary bill. That bill was so stupid.”
“Democratic congressional leaders said they held a constructive meeting with President Trump on Monday at which they agreed to seek a deal on a $2 trillion infrastructure bill,” The Hill reports.
Wall Street Journal: “In unusually positive comments about negotiations with the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both praised the meeting as productive and said they had agreed to return in three weeks to hear Mr. Trump’s ideas about how to pay for an infrastructure bill.”
Said Schumer: “There was goodwill in this meeting and that was different than some of the other meetings that we’ve had.”
Playbook: “The main event today comes at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer along with a few top committee chairs, are due to meet with the president to talk about … at long last! … infrastructure.”
“Democrats laid out their bargaining position on the matter in a letter Monday, but meetings with Trump have a tendency to, er, roam. Will the president bring up any other topics that have been on his mind lately?”
Politico: “The last time Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer met with Donald Trump it was an unequivocal disaster, culminating in the longest government shutdown in history. … [T]he White House meeting Tuesday morning is likely to reveal whether anything at all can get done in Washington over the next 18 months.”
President Trump floated an idea for Boeing:
“What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name. No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?”
The Federal Aviation Administration has halted some incoming flights into LaGuardia Airport in New York due to air traffic control staffing issues, NBC News reports.
The FAA subsequently said that the staffing shortages in Leesburg were also affecting traffic at Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
“With more federal security screeners refusing to work without pay, Miami International Airport plans to cut off access to one of its terminals over the weekend in order to send TSA workers to busier checkpoints,” the Miami Herald reports.
“Closing of the security checkpoint at Terminal G is set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, in what would be the 22nd day of a partial shutdown of the federal government. Federal screeners are calling in sick at double the normal rate for Miami, and TSA managers aren’t confident they will have enough workers to operate all 11 checkpoints at normal hours throughout the airport.”
Hundreds of TSA agents have called in sick to at least four major airports after being forced to work without pay through the 14-day partial government shutdown, CNN reports.
“The Trump administration is preparing to make another attempt at honoring one of the biggest unfulfilled promises of the president’s election campaign: a $1 trillion upgrade of the nation’s road, rail and energy infrastructure,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“That program failed to materialize during President Trump’s first year in office, as the administration pursued a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which failed, and a major tax cut, which he signed into law in December 2017.”
Playbook: “Mitch McConnell has said no thanks to this in the past.”
“Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s day-to-day calendars are filled with large swaths of time blocked out as “private,” according to Politico‘s analysis of newly released records — a pattern that several former DOT officials called unusual.”
“In total, Chao clocked more than 290 hours of appointments labeled private — the equivalent of about seven weeks’ vacation — during her first 14 months in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, based on a review of documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act. That total does not include any private hours that occurred on nights, weekends, days marked as vacation or federal holidays.”