With help from Brianna Gurciullo, Anthony Adragna, Gavin Bade, Kelsey Tamborrino and Leah Nylen
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— Florida lawmakers want financial assistance for cruise lines, which were left out of the latest coronavirus stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed last week.
— Trump’s rollback of fuel efficiency standards is expected to be unveiled today, undoing one of his predecessor’s most significant achievements on climate change but providing little certainty to an industry he promised to help.
— Ford and GE said they’ll make 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days as the White House pushes automakers to up their efforts.
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“It’s hard to let the miles pass me by / Yellow lines they blend together in my eyes.”
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FLORIDA’S ELECTEDS PUSH FOR CRUISE HELP: A number of Florida lawmakers are pushing for financial assistance for cruise lines in the next economic stimulus legislation, after the last package kept them out, our Tanya Snyder reports. “We strongly oppose any efforts that would unfairly target or hurt this important industry and urge you to provide the same level of support to the workers in this industry that is being provided to every other American worker,” wrote 15 lawmakers, led by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), in a letter to congressional leaders.
Even if the cruise industry agrees to make changes (like incorporating in the U.S. where they’d be subject to taxes and oversight) and Democrats concede to helping them, a fourth coronavirus bill could still be a long way off. “Congress is now considering staying away from Washington for a month or more as the coronavirus makes even the routine act of legislating a dangerous risk for new transmissions,” POLITICO’s Congress team reports.
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FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS ROLLBACK COMING TODAY: The Trump administration today is expected to release its final plan to weaken vehicle fuel economy targets ahead of an April 1 deadline, Pro Energy’s Alex Guillén and Zack Coleman report this morning.
The joint National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-EPA proposal will replace the Obama administration’s safety and tailpipe emissions standards for vehicles through 2026. As Zack reported last week, the final proposal will direct automakers to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent per year through model year 2026. The final rule is more stringent than a proposal that would have required zero improvement but still well below the 5 percent annual gains set by the Obama administration.
But the final rule is unlikely to provide any certainty to the auto industry that Trump promised to help. Instead, the rule goes beyond what the auto industry had asked for and leaves them with little clarity about what specifications they’ll need to meet going forward given the rule will be tied up in courts for months. “They need continuity,” said Brett Smith, director of technology with the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit funded in part by the auto industry. “Our government is offering less continuity.”
FORD JOINS VENTILATOR PUSH: Ford on Monday said it will team up with GE to produce 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days, your host reports.
The numbers: 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, ramping up to 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July 4. After that, they expect to be able to manufacture 30,000 a month. Some 500 Ford employees (and United Auto Workers members) volunteered for the effort and will be paid their normal wages, company executives said on a call with reporters.
White House official Peter Navarro said in a statement that the companies are “moving in ‘Trump time’ to speed urgently needed ventilators.”
HEADS UP: The Treasury Department on Monday night issued preliminary guidance for airlines and contractors to apply for $32 billion in grants and for airlines, repair stations, ticket agents and “businesses critical to maintaining national security” to apply for $46 billion in loans.
DIVVYING UP THE RESCUE CASH: Airlines are calling for the Treasury Department to split up loans for passenger airlines based on pro rata share of “system available seat miles” for last year and base loans for cargo airlines on “revenue ton miles,” Reuters reported. (As for grants, the law, H.R. 748 (116), requires them to go out based on the salaries and benefits an airline reported from part of last year.) Reuters’ story cites a letter signed by the CEOs of major carriers, who wrote that they wanted to “make clear that we are speaking with one voice when we propose these formula allocations.”
American Airlines is considering hiring debt restructuring banker James Millstein to assist the company in accessing the relief money, Reuters also reported. Millstein, who helped the Obama administration restructure financial firms after the 2008 financial crisis, could advise the airline during the process of obtaining aid, according to the outlet.
American’s leaders said in a message to employees Monday that the airline plans to apply for federal assistance and they “are confident that, along with our relatively high available cash position, they will allow us to fly through even the worst of potential future scenarios.”
LET ‘EM LAPSE: Starting today, the FAA is allowing pilots and flight engineers to fly with expired medical certificates because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tanya reports. An FAA medical exam is a “nonemergency medical service,” and exams “increase the risk of transmission of the virus,” the agency noted. The policy will be in effect through June 30.
KEEPING TRACK: In recent days, people at six more air traffic control facilities have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of affected facilities to at least 16. The FAA has added the air traffic control towers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the New York and Houston TRACONs, and the Houston and Atlanta air route traffic control centers to its online map.
SABRE-FARELOGIX MERGER DECISION COMING NEXT MONTH: The U.S. federal judge who will rule on whether travel bookings giant Sabre can acquire Farelogix said he plans to issue his decision in April. During a conference call on Monday, U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark said he’s prioritizing the most pressing cases, and the Justice Department’s challenge of the Sabre-Farelogix deal is at the top of the list.
“I have prioritized an opinion in this case for April,” Stark said. He didn’t indicate when next month his decision may come but asked several questions about when to expect a ruling by the U.K.’s competition agency, the Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA has also challenged the Sabre-Farelogix merger and must issue a preliminary decision in that case before April 12. Since April 12 is a Sunday, the agency is expected to announce its ruling by Friday, April 10, lawyers for Sabre said.
STATE’S EVACUATION PLAYBOOK: After the State Department successfully evacuated American citizens from Morocco earlier this month, agency staff involved in that effort wrote up a step-by-step playbook for their colleagues in other countries running through the process and challenges, which we got our hands on. Among the advice: “Expect people to constantly change their mind, and then change it again,” the Morocco staff said. For those flights, only 50 percent of American citizens who had stated they would leave ultimately came to the airport.
Commercial airlines, including United, American and Delta Air Lines have been heavily involved in the effort to scoop up stranded Americans.
SHH: The FAA came out with a proposed rule on Monday that would set takeoff and landing noise limits for new supersonic planes, our Brianna Gurciullo reports. Manufacturers say they need this rule “in order to complete their designs with reasonable certainty that the aircraft will qualify for type certification,” the FAA noted.
DEMOCRATS SIGNAL REAL INFRASTRUCTURE PUSH: Senior House Democrats indicated they’d use their next coronavirus relief package to push for infrastructure priorities, including modernizing the nation’s drinking water system, Pro’s Anthony Adragna reports. “All this speaks very clearly to the fact that we need to make investments in our broadband, our [electric] grid, and the rest,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on a call with reporters.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said the pandemic showcased various weaknesses in the nation’s infrastructure, citing water, the electric grid and internet access specifically. “We’ve got to address the infrastructure so this doesn’t happen again if there’s another pandemic or disaster of a similar nature,” he said.
DOT DEPARTURE: Senior FMCSA official Alan Hanson has left the agency, your host reports. Hanson, who was serving as chief counsel at the trucking regulator, had his last day on Friday, DOT told POLITICO. His next stop is another yet-to-be announced government position.
— “They can’t afford to quarantine. So they brave the subway.” New York Times.
— “Russia and China expand use of GPS jamming and spoofing, reports say.” POLITICO Pro.
— “The US Navy Hospital Ship Comfort has docked in New York City.” CNN.
— “Stranded ship with sick passengers crosses Panama Canal, aims for Florida.” Washington Post.
— “GM hustles to pump out ventilators to fight coronavirus.” Wall Street Journal.
DOT appropriations run out in 182 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 1,279 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 182 days.