Transportation bills continue to play the waiting game
March 16, 2012
For those of you that thought the House would take up the recently-passed two-year, $109 billion Senate transportation bill, MAP-21, upon returning from recess next week, you will have to keep waiting.
Political dysfunction aside, it was pretty clear from the outset this was not going to happen. And that point was drilled home in a Politico report, which quoted House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee staffers as saying the House will not take up the MAP-21, while its bill, the five-year, $260 billion American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act will not make it to the House floor until mid-April at the earliest.
I am doing the math here and based on the eighth continuing resolution of SAFETEA-LU (a bill which actually expired on September 30, 2009) coming up on March 31, it most certainly looks like yet another continuing resolution is en route. It sort of has to be, right?
The House bill, as previously noted in this space, has stalled out to a large degree. When the House Republican Conference met earlier this month 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.
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.
The Politico report added that the House is determined to drum up support for the five-year bill, with plans for another extension of the current bill—which will be its ninth—to hit the floor during the week of March 26.
Meanwhile, the Senate wants the House to take up MAP-21.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and all House members from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the senators asked the House to immediately take up and pass MAP-21.
They explained that reforms in MAP-21 improve surface transportation programs “by maintaining current funding levels for highways and public transportation, consolidating over two-thirds of all highway programs, eliminating earmarks, establishing a national freight program, improving safety oversight of public transportation, and instituting performance measures and accountability for transportation infrastructure projects,” adding that the bill is fully paid for.
What’s more, the Senators, in a sense, pointed out what has been mentioned every time this bill’s current continuing resolution is set to expire: that U.S. surface transportation programs will be shut down, with nearly three million jobs at stake.
Obviously, something needs to happen here…again. Something more than yet another continuing resolution, too. But as always, the question is: will it happen?
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