The 110th Congress is off to a quick start on construction legislation, moving major bills through committees and a few through the House. But except for a measure funding most agencies for the rest of 2007, no key bill has become law.
“There’s been a lot of committee-level activity but not much in the way of conference or completed bills,” says Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president for government affairs. “A lot of the bills that we’re watching...have veto threats over them.”
In that category is legislation adding funds for the Iraq war, plus several billion dollars for military and civil construction. Differences between bills the House and Senate passed are yet to be reconciled. But President Bush promises a veto if the final version has timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
With the Pentagon saying troops need funds soon, Jeffrey D. Shoaf, Associated General Contractors’ senior executive director for government and public affairs, says, “I think there’s significant urgency to getting it done quickly.” He predicts “a lot of horse trading” before there’s a deal. The bills’ construction funding so far has not been all that controversial, he says.
House and Senate committees have cleared water-resources bills authorizing Corps of Engineers projects. The chambers passed similar measures last Congress but failed to strike a deal. “We just hope they’ll continue to keep up the momentum,” says Susan Monteverde, American Association of Port Authorities’ vice president for government relations.
An aviation bill to extend the Airport Improvement Program faces a Sept. 30 deadline. The Bush administration proposed sweeping changes. But Debby McElroy, Airports Council International-North America senior vice president for government affairs, says, “The bottom line is, both the House and Senate committees are writing their own bill.”
ACI-NA wants the passenger facility charge cap to rise to $7.50, from $4.50, and the Airport Improvement Program to hit $3.8 billion in 2008, $4 billion in 2009 and $4.1 billion in 2010. “I still think that [an aviation bill] is something that, if they can’t get done right on time, they can get done close to on time,” says Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies’ vice president for government affairs.