Home » House Passes Two-Month Transportation Extension
The House has approved yet another short extension for federal highway and transit programs, which would keep them going for a brief two-month period at current funding levels.
But the measure, which the House passed overwhelmingly on May 19 by a 387-35 vote, also would be the 33rd stopgap in six years, continuing the protracted stalemate over how to find the revenue for what construction industry and state transportation officials most want: a six-year transportation bill with increased funding.
The Senate is expected to clear the latest extension by May 22. The White House issued a statement saying it doesn’t oppose the stopgap, which would run until July 31. The current, 10-month authorization is due to lapse on May 31.
The two-month option was the easiest path for lawmakers to take because it didn’t require finding additional revenue for the financially shaky Highway Trust Fund.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said that the trust fund is expected to stay in the black until late July or early August. Without new revenue at that point, he added, the departments would have to start slowing down its highway funding reimbursements to state agencies for road and bridge projects.
Construction industry and union groups continued to be disappointed that Congress was unable to produce a multi-year bill.
Robert Stevens, American Society of Civil Engineers president, said in a statement, “We hope that by setting a short-fuse July deadline, Congress will avoid another lull into complacency, and they will truly feel the urgency and have the resolve to properly fix the backbone of our nation’s economy.”
Sean McGarvey, North America’s Building Trades Unions president, said in a statement, “Once again, instead of addressing head-on one of the most pressing issues of our time, the U.S. House has simply chosen to pass another extension, kicking the can down the road, which by the way is crumbling beneath its feet.”
Dennis Slater, Association of Equipment Manufacturers president, said that equipment makers “supported this extension because it keeps the chronic problems plaguing the Highway Trust Fund at top of mind for lawmakers for the next 10 weeks.”
But Slater also wants to see more progress on a long-term bill, and wants Congress and the administration to come up with “innovative proposals on how they would fund a long-term bill.
Some important legislators are taking steps toward the multi-year bill. Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s top Democrat, introduced the Obama administration’s GROW AMERICA bill, a six-year, $478-billion proposal.
In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Barbara Boxer (Calif.), said they plan a committee vote on a six-year bill in June.
But that bill would cover only policy-related provisions—the key revenue title is under the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction.