Players to watch: Transportation

Welcome to The Hill’s Players to Watch special report for fall 2014.

The lawmakers, administration officials and power brokers listed here will play enormous roles in the policies and politics that take place over the next several months.

There are many big questions facing the White House and the divided Congress: Will lawmakers agree on a government funding bill that averts another shutdown? Will the controversial Export-Import Bank be reauthorized? Which party will control the Senate in 2015? How will the White House exert its administrative power? Will the administration scrap the ObamaCare employer mandate? What steps will be taken to counter the rise of the Islamic
State in Iraq and Syria, and what will Congress’s role be?


Our reporters and editors have selected the most important people among the thousands who are working on this autumn’s hot issues. The decisions made by these newsmakers will affect the U.S. in many ways, both domestically and abroad.

The list of players includes leadership lawmakers, committee chairmen, Cabinet officials, regulators, foreign leaders and campaign operatives.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status MORE (D-Calif.)

Boxer will take a leading role this fall in Democratic efforts to blame Republicans for Congress’s failure to approve a long-term funding bill for the nation’s highways.

The chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has repeatedly said an interruption to federal highway spending will hold back the economy and cost the nation as many as 700,000 jobs.

The California Democrat wanted Congress to move a six-year funding bill in August, but lawmakers instead approved funding only through May.

That decision will make it tougher for Democrats to play up a possible highway “shutdown,” because there’s no danger of funding being cut off until the spring.


Still, Boxer will be her party’s loudest voice this fall arguing Republicans are setting the nation up for trouble next year. And she’ll be arguing Congress should move a longer-term bill before the end of the year.

Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxHillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE, Transportation Secretary

Foxx, fresh off the summer battle over highway funding, must make decisions on two controversial issues this fall.

He’ll first have to weigh in on a bid by Norwegian Airlines to offer flights to the United States. Labor groups argue the airline is trying to dodge higher worker standards in Norway by registering planes in Ireland, and they are urging Foxx to reject the airline’s bid.

Separately, Foxx must finalize new regulations for trains carrying crude oil that are dividing the railroad industry and consumer and environmental groups.

Those groups want Foxx’s agency to phase out older cars that they say aren’t safe to carry flammable materials. Two high-profile explosions of rail cars carrying crude have captured attention on the issue.

The rail industry says eliminating the older cars would raise enormous costs for the industry. They argue the cars could eventually be phased out, but only after newer cars are developing.

After a comment period ends this fall, it will be Foxx’s job to make a decision.

Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP sees immigration as path to regain power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax MORE (R-N.D.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (D-N.D.)

North Dakota is ground zero in the fight over how to handle the delivery of crude oil by train.

The state’s Bakken rock formation is rich with oil, and it is being carried away to refineries by rail.

That’s led to concerns about safety, particularly after a December 2013 accident that resulted in 400,000 gallons of crude oil being spilled in Casselton, N.D.

The lawmakers have pushed the Department of Transportation to finish new rules that would gradually phase out thousands of older tank car models that have been blamed for the spill.

Separately, the two are likely to have to mediate between oil producers and farmers who are worried the oil deliveries are crowding out their commodities from the rails.


Agriculture has traditionally been king in North Dakota, but the oil boom may be changing that.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan GOP governor says Republican Party has to allow for differences MORE (R-Utah) 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will be Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) foil this fall as the two parties battle over what to do with the nation’s highway system.

Lee wants to nearly eliminate the gas tax now used to fund highway projects and not replace the funding source with anything new.

The Tea Party favorite is championing the idea of “devolution,” under which responsibility for the national highway system would move from the federal government to states, and he has offered the Transportation Empowerment Act to give states control over road projects now paid for by the federal government. More than half of Lee’s Senate Republican colleagues voted in favor of the measure this summer when it came up as an amendment to the highway-funding bill.

Lee’s bill won’t be approved by the Senate this fall, but his arguments are gaining ground within his conference, and he’s hoping gains by Republicans in this fall’s elections will give him new allies when Congress has to consider extending highway funding again next spring.

John Pistole, TSA administrator


The chief of the Transportation Security Administration will face questions this fall on how his agency will prevent members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from entering the U.S.

Concerns about ISIS terrorists entering the country have grown with reports that as many as 3,000 of them have Western passports. That’s raised questions about whether rules should be tightened for the Department of State’s visa waiver program or the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s global entry program, both of which allow expedited entry to the United States.

Pistole is the face of airport security in Congress, meaning he’ll likely be called on in September to explain what the agency is doing to keep ISIS members off U.S.-bound flights.

— Keith Laing