Live-blogging Anthony Foxx’s Senate Confirmation Hearing for DOT Secretary
4:27: Thune: We also can’t continue to borrow from general fund to fund highways. Either we need to find a way to pay for it or we need to cut our appetites. Can’t just keep borrowing from our children and grandchildren. I hope you and the president will lead and put specific ideas on the table. Infrastructure is important. Best way to avoid deficits and debt is to grow the economy.
4:23: Rockefeller: We’re going to have to spend money and no one wants to talk about it. Because as soon as you talk about it, your opponents will find someone to run against you. You have to goad us. If you can’t do something because you don’t have the money to do it, tell us. Express your frustration. Safety inspections, next-gen shouldn’t be sacrificed because we don’t have the money.
4:22: Rockefeller is on a roll, but I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Now talking about hospital bathrooms and the international space station (re: MRSA). He’s already ordered Foxx not to respond to what he’s saying. He’s very poetic but sort of rambly.
4:20 Rockefeller: “I want you to be a good secretary of transportation. And you can’t do that without revenue.” Your predecessor just went around saying whatever he wanted. Great to talk about infrastructure bank, but private sector will invest if federal government does.
4:16: Rockefeller: Fear of next primary is destroying the country. You’re being told to eliminate all rules and regulations, don’t do any tolls, raise no revenues — by simply avoiding waste, fraud and abuse. Hypocrisy. “You can’t minimize yourself into greatness.”
4:13 Cruz: Texas wants NEPA delegation like California has. Foxx: There are systems in place to review those petitions. Need the information. Cruz says he looks forward to supporting Foxx’s nomination.
4:13: Cruz: Yeah, let’s cut 10 regulations.
4:13: Foxx: We’ll see how we can reduce burdens without sacrificing safety. Almost, but doesn’t quite say “without sacrificing the environment.”
4:10 Cruz asks about reducing regulatory burdens, Foxx says Obama already has, including infrastructure acceleraed delivery memorandum. Cruz asks him to cut three burdensome regulations in first 100 days. Foxx: “I can’t do it blindly. I’m not in the job now.” But if there are 10 bad regulations, I’ll cut 10.
4:09: Foxx says he will look for ways to make department function as well as possible with least amount of pain possible, “but with sequester, there will be pain.”
4:08 Ouch! Foxx says people are surprised when he tells them he had a good visit with Ted Cruz. (Cruz is sort of a notorious nutjob.)
4:06 Ted Cruz (R-TX) asks for commitment that in implementing sequestration and “any further budget cuts” that he’ll target “waste, fraud and abuse” with minimal inconvenience to consumers — i.e. wants cuts without consequences.
4:02: Foxx says he’s excited about National Freight Council and freight strategic plan. Sen. Maria Cantwell asks if freight requires dedicated funding? Foxx is looking forward to talking to council about it.
4:00 Blunt notes that this is a non-controversial nomination. Says it’s because they’re all so dependent on everything he’s responsible for. Which makes no sense. Only secretaries of unimportant departments can be controversial?
4:00: Foxx asked about his views on next transportation bill. Blunt says it’s already time to put out a department draft (note: DOT didn’t put out public draft bill before MAP-21.) Foxx says big question is how to fund the reauthorization. Blunt says as vehicles get more efficient, the funding stream goes down.
3:57: Roy Blunt (R-MO) asks about FAA training center. Foxx doesn’t seem to have much to say about it. Blunt says we need to figure out how to prioritize furloughs. You’re seeing what happens when we’re not “open” about all that. Lots of Republicans blaming the department for sequester cuts they’re (at least in part) responsible for.
3:55: Foxx: funding question is more art than science. We need to figure this out — everyone agrees. President has put his proposal on the table. Sort of avoids the issue of highway expansion.
3:52: Fischer (R-NE) says we need to build highways. Has been federal role since interstate system. Where will funding come from?
3:52: Foxx says he wants to get to department before saying too much about what he’d cut. Has mentioned the role of technology in making transportation, government more efficient several times.
3:49: Fischer:… but we need to “streamline” department, find “efficiencies.” Where would you find “efficiencies?” Foxx: streamline project delivery process to achieve savings. Move toward performance measurement using data. That’s not across all modes, but it’s a start. Also can save money for external stakeholders. Next-gen, for example, will save airlines money in fuel costs.
3:48: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) affirms her commitment to strong federal role in infrastructure.
3:45: Foxx: Infrastructure bank allows us to capture some of the trillions of private dollars that are sitting on the sidelines, not being reinvested in this country. TIFIA, private activity bonds are tools that are in use already. I would not just advocate for those specific tools, look to partners in state and local governments for creative ideas.
3:40: Sen. William Cowan (D-MA) — the only other Black member of the Senate, in addition to Scott — speaking now.
3:39: Scott speaks against aviation user fees. Foxx says he’ll listen to all stakeholders, doesn’t mean he’ll agree.
3:37 Scott asks about GAO study of TIGER.
3:36: Scott speaks again “disastrous” idea of tolling on I-95. Foxx says tolling has a place but “we’re not going to toll our way to prosperity.” Can be used to add capacity and pay for that capacity privately. (I.e., won’t agree to toll existing capacity, as many state DOTs would like to do.)
3:34: Sen. Scott: a lot of Senate hearings are pointed questions, pointed answers, lots of deliberation about nothing. This is welcome change.
3:33 Rockefeller is breaking order, going to Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).
3:32: Klobuchar glad to see a mayor in this role, they know transportation from the front lines. Tells funny anecdote about a citizen calling mayor on a Sunday about trash collection because he didn’t want to both Public Works Department head at home.
3:30: Foxx gives first truly evasive answer — to Klobuchar’s question on the recreational trails program. She said she worked hard to make sure RTP was maintained in MAP-21. Will you work to ensure the program continues? Foxx: “I look forward to working with you on those issues for sure.” Klobuchar says, we’ll get you out there on a snowmobile to see the trails for yourself.
3:29: LaHood has “baked” distracted driving focus “into DNA of the department.” Foxx says he’ll maintain that focus.
3:28: Foxx: When a bridge collapses in America, it’s inexcusable. Yet we have challenges figuring out a long-term path toward funding infrastructure. Idea of infrastructure bank is a good idea, not a complete solution. Way to make progress on repair and new infrastructure projects.
3:26: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) says this is “probably one of the most pleasant hearings on the Hill today.” Touts light rail in Minneapolis, mentions highways that need work throughout the state. She introduced Obama’s $50 billion infrastructure investment plan in last session. I-35 bridge that collapsed was 6 blocks from her house.
3:22 It should be noted that everyone is expecting Foxx to sail through this confirmation process. So far, the only Republican to speak (Thune) has asked no particularly tough questions.
3:20: Sen. Richard Blumenthal of CT says good railcars probably saved lives in recent crash. Asks Foxx’s commitment to maintaining state of good repair. Foxx says it’ll be priority, specifically regarding safety on Northeast Corridor. Won’t concur with Blumenthal’s use of word “decrepit” referring to NEC. Blumenthal makes him an offer “I hope you won’t refuse” to make one of your first trips as secretary with me to site of collision.
3:17: Senate votes were scheduled for 4:00, now pushed till later, probably won’t disrupt hearing.
3:17: Thune: How will you rebuild trust with the American people? Foxx mostly answers that he’ll work with the committee.
3:15 Foxx: We’ve had to make some very tough choices in Charlotte. Our capital program is 1/5 the size of the city’s needs. I’d look to see which projects will be most helpful connecting people to jobs and global marketplace and leverage what’s there, like housing and commercial development near transportation. Less urban places have different needs.
3:13: Foxx says he wants to be active participant in discussions about MAP-21 reauthorization. MAP-21 achieves many important things like performance measures. Needs longer-term bill, longer-term funding sources.
3:13: If we’re left with a sequester, I’ll work toward a “no-surprises” approach.
3:12: Thune blames DOT for poor planning that resulted in service disruptions due to the sequester. Asks how Foxx would provide adequate air traffic control within budget constraints. Foxx draws on experiences as mayor of budget-constrained city. Found innovative ways to do it in Charlotte.
3:10: Foxx pledges to be as open and transparent as possible, promises Thune he’ll be responsive to this committee. Thune notes he has several unanswered letters pending to DOT.
3:08 Foxx and Rockefeller both <3 next-gen.
3:08: Foxx: You do have successes of multimodalism to draw upon. TIGER is one of them. We also have opportunity with forthcoming reauthorizations, use performance measurements using data. At local and state level, many governments are already thinking across modes. We should listen to their good ideas.
3:06: Rockefeller: How do you take siloed DOT and try to get it working together? Foxx: Local govt can be siloed too. I’ve worked to break down some of those silos.
3:04: TIGER is a model of multimodalism, Foxx says. We used it in Charlotte to extend light rail platforms that we couldn’t build right the first time because of formula funding restrictions you mention. You have my commitment to work to reduce siloed thinking.
3:03: Rockefeller says maybe it’s bad, but transpo modes have always been siloed. Does it make sense to move beyond current formulaic models to multi-modal strategic model? And how did multimodal programs like TIGER help you in Charlotte?
3:01 Foxx: Ensuring that transportation system is safest in the world will be first focus. Second, efficiency and performance through technology and innovation, including public-private partnerships. Third: meet needs of next generation of Americans. Private sector can’t do it alone. U.S. must invest in strong, multi-modal transpo system.
3:00 Decided to make efficient transportation an intergral part of Charlotte’s economic revitalization — including Charlotte’s streetcar project. More than 15,000 light rail riders on average weekday. “Streetcar project is expected to connect people with jobs, schools, medical facilities in the heart of the city.” Ed note: Council is still saying no to the streetcar.
2:57: Foxx talks about his upbringing as child of a single mother without much money.
2:57: Foxx: “I will bring the perspective of serving as mayor of Charlotte, which is the 17th largest city in America.”
2:56 Foxx begins his statement.
2:54: John Thune, ranking committee member: 9% of entire nation’s non-ag workforce works in transportation industry.
2:51 Rockefeller: “We’re very good at passing rules, and they never get implemented, and we think they have been because we passed them.”
2:48: Rockefeller: We desperately need a strategic, long-term vision” for fixing our transpo system. Must get away from “overly-siloed” funding mechanisms. You’ve done that very successfully in your city.
2:47: Rockefeller: U.S. DOT is enduring a “tumultuous time of constrained resources” while running a bunch of new programs. How to pay for it hasn’t been figured out. “I mean, I can figure it out but it doesn’t seem to be a prevailing view.”
2:46 Chair Jay Rockefeller says he’s never seen a greater “press crush” at a Commerce Committee hearing.
2:43 Foxx helped attract or create more than 84,000 new jobs in Charlotte. Approved I-485 for expansion, oversaw opening of third runway at Charlotte airport, championed LYNX blue line.
2:42 Hagan notes Foxx was Davidson College’s first black student body president. Elected to City Council 2005, chaired Transportation Committee, was member of Economic Development and Planning Committee.
2:41 Sen. Hagan notes that Foxx’s children go to school in Charlotte. Is giving his bio.
2:41 Sen. Burr said Foxx would “keep this country moving, and moving in the right direction.”
2:37: Anthony Foxx has arrived to the committee room, accompanied by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (a Democrat that represents northeastern North Carolina, not Charlotte, which is southwest, but who serves on the House Commerce Committee, the counterpart to the committee where this hearing is taking place. Senators Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D) are also with him and will be introducing him.
2:30 p.m.: The hearing should begin shortly. You can catch up on our previous coverage of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx in the meantime: his transit- and bike-loving ways, what to expect from him as secretary, and advice to him from others who have held the job he’s applying for.