Slow goings for transportation legislation as the clock ticks down to March 31
March 12, 2012
With the clock officially ticking away until the March 31 deadline for to Congress either—A-sign off on a new federal surface transportation bill—or B-pass yet another short-term continuing resolution with funding intact a current levels, there has been some movement on matters related to this effort in the last week or so, with later this month once the House returns from recess this week.
On the House side, the five-year, $260 American Energy and Infrastructure Act, which was introduced in late January, appears to be on a road to nowhere at this point.
This was made clear by the fact that when the House Republican Conference met last week to review the status of the bill, there were still not enough votes for the bill’s transportation sections, with only the energy portion being signed off on, according to a report in Politico.
Meanwhile, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) said in a statement that a five-year bill “is the best option for a job-creating bill to improve our infrastructure.”
While Mica has faith in his five-year plan, the lack of sufficient votes indicates the House feels differently at this point. What’s more, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently said it is among dozens of organizations that are against removing transit investments from the Highway Trust Fund.
On the Senate side, last week saw the two-year, $109 billion MAP-21 legislation have a fair amount of activity. 40 amendments were approved last week, according to AASHTO, with work scheduled for 22 other amendments tomorrow.
In early February, the Senate voted by an 85-11 margin to move ahead with MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). But last week, a 52-44 vote fell short of the required 60 votes needed to close debate on the bill, noted AASHTO.
If the House measure does not gain traction, House Speaker John Boehner said that the House considering the Senate bill is one option being considered as well as continue talking with House members about a longer-term approach.
The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) said that House leadership tries to “advance a bill which faces considerable opposition from conservatives who are strongly reluctant to commit to the five-year plan,” adding that “failure to advance a House bill which has been promoted to create and foster job growth would place its authors and supporters in a precarious political position in an election year.”
Election year or not, time is running short. This Congress has fallen well short of agreeing upon pretty much anything to a large degree. Unfortunately, it does not look much better when it comes to surface transportation legislation. If anything is close to being partisan-free, it would sure seem to make sense that this would be it.
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