The push for a multiyear surface- transportation bill has suffered a setback on a Senate procedural vote on March 6. Backers of a two-year, $109-billion measure fell eight votes short of the 60 needed for cloture to cut off debate and move ahead on the bill.
House Republicans at press time were determining how—or whether—to revise a five-year, $260-billion bill that had cleared committee. On March 1, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there is GOP opposition to an 18-month bill. "Apparently, our members don't think too highly of it. I would only look at it as a fallback measure," he said. He may allow a House vote on the Senate bill.
Boehner added, "I think it's important for the states and for those who are going to invest in this arena to have a broad horizon, so they'd know where we're going—and a five-year bill is the best way to get there. Whether we can achieve that, given the differences, we'll see."
The lack of progress makes another short-term extension likely by March 31, when the current stopgap expires.
Industry Groups Propose U.S. Loan Program
Facing huge water-infrastructure funding shortfalls, municipalities, and water, wastewater and engineering groups are making a case for a new federal financing mechanism to supplement existing programs. A Feb. 27 American Water Works Association report says U.S. drinking-water infrastructure needs will exceed $1 trillion over the next 25 years.
Organizations testifying at a Feb. 28 House water-resources and environment subcommittee hearing said they back the concept of a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA. Modeled after the popular Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the proposed WIFIA would provide federal loans and loan guarantees to help fund major water and wastewater projects.
Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) circulated a draft WIFIA bill at the hearing. The panel's top Democrat, Tim Bishop (N.Y.), introduced a similar measure last fall. Bishop said differences between the bills were not insurmountable.