Week in Review

The House is in recess until November 13, a week after the midterm elections. The Senate returned on Monday evening to await the results of a supplemental FBI inquiry into allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Last Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court on a party-line 11-10 vote. Senator Flake (R-AZ) voted to report the nomination out of Committee, but suggested that he would not support Kavanaugh on the floor unless Republican leadership allowed a one-week delay for the FBI to further investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Leader McConnell (R-KY) agreed and President Trump authorized the investigation. Upon the FBI making its report available to senators, McConnell filed cloture on the nomination, setting up a procedural vote tomorrow followed by a confirmation vote on Saturday.

In the meantime, the Senate voted on Monday evening to limit debate on a five-year FAA reauthorization bill, which it went on to pass Wednesday 93-6. The bill now awaits the President’s signature. The Senate also voted 98-1 to adopt the House-passed conference report on a package of legislation to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.

This week, Reps. Matsui (D-CA) and Guthrie (R-KY) introduced H.R. 6913, the Blockchain Promotion Act of 2018 to create a public-private working group within the Department of Commerce to establish a consensus-based definition of blockchain. The bill also directs the working group to make recommendations for a NTIA-FCC study on the potential impacts of blockchain on spectrum policy. Matsui and Guthrie noted their legislation coincides with a number of similar state initiatives. The California legislature recently passed legislation that defines blockchain as “a mathematically secured, chronological, and decentralized ledger or database” and establishes a state working group to evaluate its benefits and risks. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Development Committee will also explore blockchain and cryptocurrency next week.

The Week Ahead

The House is in recess until after the midterms. Next week, the Senate is expected to pass compromise Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which the House has already cleared.

MWC Emerging Technologies Group Hosts Panel on the Future of Autonomy

On Wednesday, the MWC Emerging Technologies Group hosted From the Surface to the Skies: The Future of Autonomy in the United States, a panel discussion focused on the current and future policy landscape for automation across transportation. Panelists included Finch Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, US Department of Transportation; Jackie Keshian, Professional Staff Member, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; Margaret Nagle, Head of Policy and Government Affairs, X; and Cheri Pascoe, Senior Professional Staff Member and Investigator, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

The event coincided with two key developments for the future of automation in the United States. Earlier Wednesday, the Senate passed long-term FAA reauthorization legislation that advances US drone policy, sending it to the President for his signature (see more on how the legislation will impact the development of the drone industry and its technology here). Today, the Department of Transportation released updated guidance for automated vehicles.