Transportation bill post-Labor Day reset: where do things stand?September 6, 2011
By Stephen Lee Davis
The Tuesday after Labor Day is like back to school day in Washington. Congress is back after a month-long recess and the sleepiest month of the year in D.C. ends with a long holiday weekend before Congress gets back in session. With that in mind, we thought it would be good to do a quick reset to get everyone up to speed on where things stand right now as we move into these few weeks before a few important dates for federal transportation policy and funding.
The transportation bill extension. The current transportation bill expires at the end of September. Congress needs to pass another temporary extension — the 8th extension of the last bill — to give them the necessary weeks/months to hammer out a plan for a long-term transportation bill. The Senate could mark up a clean, four-month extension of the current bill as early as the end of this week. The House will likely take up the FAA authorization bill first since their last temporary agreement expires in the middle of the month. Indications are coming from both chambers and both parties that passing an extension shouldn’t be a problem, though promises like that may ring hollow in most ears these days.
A long-term transportation bill. As far as a long-term bill goes, you may remember, the House has already released their plan for a transportation bill that would run for the full six years, but would cut funding by 35 percent across the board. The Senate is still working on their plan for a two-year bill that would maintain current funding levels. They’re nearing the finish line on that plan, and they’ve at least announced a plan to mark up a two-year bill in committee sometime next week. If a timetable like that holds, the two-year Senate bill could make it through that chamber before Rep. Mica’s House bill sees action in the House.
The gas tax. After much prognostication, it doesn’t seem that there will be any widespread opposition to extending the gas tax in the House or Senate. The word around town is that a reauthorization of the gas tax will be folded into a “continuing resolution” that will be used to continue funding the government after the end of the month. (It’s unlikely that a proper budget or individual appropriations bills will pass before September 30th, meaning that the “CR” will extend last year’s funding levels, with some cuts, for another few months.)
The month of September will be a busy time with all these elements in play. Be sure to check back here or follow us on twitter to stay in the loop and find out what you can do to take action and weigh in with your members of Congress.