We begin this year with a variation on the bucket list. It's not a list of things we want to do before we kick the bucket, but rather a list of things we'd like the federal government to put to rest before the end of the year, so that they don't turn up on next year's list.
• For starters, Cuba. President Obama presented the pleasant surprise last month of moving to normalize relations with Cuba, and we applaud that effort -- so much so that we're hoping that Congress and the administration can complete this work by the end of the year.
Of course, Republicans in Congress have little incentive to contribute to anything for which a lame-duck Democrat might take credit, so we're not optimistic. But it would be great to close the book on this half-century-old debate.
• The gas tax. Nobody likes taxes, but we like our transportation trust funds and the highway and infrastructure projects that they finance. Unfortunately, the highway trust fund ran out of money last year and could do so again. Our answer to this shortfall is for Congress to raise the federal gas tax, which has been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.
A year ago, the Senate briefly flirted with the idea of phasing in a 12-cent increase. It was a good idea then, and it's a better idea now, with prices at the pump having fallen to a five-year low.
• Put the brakes on the DOT. The Transportation Department's consumer protection people have been getting too protective and are seeking to extend their jurisdiction to Internet search engines and further intrude into the business of travel agents, all in the name of correcting "abuses" that are more imaginary than real.
Perhaps the new majority in Congress can bring a dose of discipline to the activist regulators in the DOT before they do any more damage to a travel business that doesn't deserve the kind of close supervision that the DOT is so eager to provide.
• Norwegian Air. This enterprising airline is trying to operate transatlantic service on a low-fare business model, and that's something that governments on both sides of the pond say they want to encourage. But DOT foot-dragging has kept Norwegian operating under an interim license that prevents it from implementing a key part of its plan: operating via a corporate entity in Ireland that the government of Ireland has already approved.
The roadblocks to DOT approval have been erected by labor unions that feel threatened by Norwegian's desire to shop for a business-friendly home base, but that's what the U.S.-European Union Open Skies deal is all about. Norwegian has been waiting long enough. Let's open the skies for real.