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Omicron is spreading, but travel bans may end soon – Politico


With help from Tanya Snyder, Julian E. J. Sorapuru and Oriana Pawlyk

— The South Africa travel ban may not last for much longer, Fauci says.

— Shipping executives answer supply chain questions.

— New Covid testing rules for inbound air travelers to the U.S. are in place today.

IT’S MONDAY: You’re reading Morning Transportation, your Washington policy guide to everything that moves. Send tips, pitches, feedback and song lyrics to [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]. You can also find us on Twitter: @alextdaugherty, @TSnyderDC, @Oriana0214 and @JulianSorapuru.

Your MT writer ad-libs a classic with the new testing rules in effect. “All my bags are packed/I’m ready to go/I’m standin’ here outside your door/[I need to get a Covid test to flyyyyy]”

ANTHONY FAUCI says travel ban may not last long: U.S. officials are reviewing the travel ban on South Africa and other African countries, and Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday they hope to end it “within a reasonable amount of time” despite the Omicron variant’s ongoing spread throughout the U.S., Maeve Sheehey reports.

“When the ban was put on, it was put to give us time to figure out just what is going on. Now, as you mentioned, as we‘re getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we are looking at that very carefully on a daily basis,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Fauci added that Omicron, despite becoming the dominant variant in South Africa, does not currently show signs of having more severe effects than other coronavirus variants.

“Thus far, though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said.

REMINDER: Travelers inbound to the U.S. will have to provide a negative Covid test just one day prior to travel beginning 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday. The testing applies to vaccinated travelers no matter their country of origin. More from Oriana.

Want to receive this newsletter every weekday? Subscribe to POLITICO Pro. You’ll also receive daily policy news and other intelligence you need to act on the day’s biggest stories.

Shipping executives testify: The Senate Commerce Committee will host a hearing on Tuesday titled “Uncharted Waters: Challenges Posed by Ocean Shipping Supply Chains.”

Four executives will appear: John Butler, CEO, World Shipping Council, Greg Regan, President of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO , Paul Doyle, CEO, Coastal Automotive and Norman Krug, CEO, Preferred Popcorn.

Senators are expected to grill industry representatives on what went wrong with supply chains during the fall, when container ships were jammed offshore and consumers experienced a lack of inventory and price increases.

Intercity rail expansion? The House Transportation Committee will host a hearing titled “Leveraging IIJA: Plans for Expanding Intercity Passenger Rail.”

AMTRAK is flush with cash — $66 billion was included in the infrastructure bill, H.R. 3684 (117), and states are already hinting that the money will drastically expand intercity rail service.

For example, Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault told reporters that the state agency heard from Amtrak last week that they plan to “expand” service in Florida, which currently operates intercity serivce to the state’s largest cities through Jacksonville.

But Thibault said they aren’t sure what specific projects or expansion Amtrak has in mind. Thursday’s hearing could provide some insight.

A $900 electric bike tax credit could be on its way, Bloomberg reports. Included in the ongoing negotiations for Biden’s Build Back Better bill are tax credits for e-bikes and e-motorcycles.

The tax credit is modeled after a bill, H.R. 1019 (117), proposed by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and is applied to the purchase of a new e-bike, up to $900. Taxpayers can claim a tax credit for one e-bike per year (two for joint filers) and begins to phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 in adjusted gross income.

Obviously, any BBB specifics are Senate-dependent at this point. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said she’s still not sure how she’ll vote in an interview with CNN late last week.

When asked what changes she would like to see to the bill, H.R. 5376 (117), Sinema declined to answer and said that “when you negotiate directly in good faith with your colleagues and don’t negotiate publicly, you’re actually much more likely to find that agreement.”

The other holdout is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who is publicly opposed to a $4,500 tax credit for union-made electric vehicles.

An NDAA is possible this week, Connor O’Brien reports, but transportation-related amendments will likely get the boot.

The Senate ground to a halt last week over the Pentagon policy legislation, H.R. 4350 (117), when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) objected to push for a vote on his legislation, S. 65 (117), that bars the importation of Chinese goods made with forced Uyghur labor.

Instead, the House will likely pass a final NDAA this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, and the compromise legislation is likely to pass both chambers in lieu of the stalled Senate NDAA, a congressional aide told POLITICO.

That means a host of transportation-related amendments that senators hoped to attach to the annual defense bill are likely out, including a proposal from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to establish a national database of supply chain information and an amendment offered by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio.) and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), that requires infrastructure operators to report cyber attacks to the federal government within 72 hours.

ICYMI: ELAINE CHAO JOINS EV BOARD: The former Transportation and Labor secretary will join the board of ChargePoint Holdings, as the EV industry ramps up for quick growth, E&E News reports.

Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and has extensive experience in the public and private sectors, will bring high-level Washington connections to ChargePoint after last month’s infrastructure bill included $7.5 billion for EV charging across the country.

“Her policy and transportation experience helps strengthen our diverse board of technology, mobility and energy expertise,” ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano said in a statement.

COBALT CORRUPTION: Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the chairman of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned mining enterprise, was fired after The New York Times published an article detailing new allegations of self-dealing from Yuma.

Yuma was in charge of Congo’s production of cobalt and copper, two natural resources that are critical components to building electric vehicle batteries. Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries, produces more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt but has faced allegations of corruption, unsafe mining conditions and the use of child labor.

“It is hard to underestimate the importance of this development — it is a significant step in the fight against corruption in Congo,” J. Peter Pham, who until January served as a senior Central Africa official with the U.S. State Department, told the Times. “Albert Yuma and the mining sector stand at the nexus of natural resources, political and economic power in the country.”

— “A Hertz customer’s Thanksgiving reservation gone awry was every car-rental nightmare wrapped up in one.” The Washington Post.

— “After massive transit losses during the pandemic, agencies are planning a comeback.” Urban Institute.

— “Why Biden won’t talk about Tesla.” E&E News.

— “Bipartisan committee leaders request clarity from airlines on management of payroll support program funds.” House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

— “Clearview AI on track to win U.S. patent for facial recognition technology.” POLITICO.

— “Growth of electric vehicles endangering rain forests.” NBC.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at [email protected].





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