House leadership floated the idea of a shorter 18-month long transportation bill today but it apparently fell flat and hard.
Speaker John Boehner and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica reportedly sought to put the scaled back version in front of the House with dedicated funding for transit restored and the rest of the bill largely unchanged. This move is meant to appease suburban Republicans whose votes were needed to pass H.R. 7 but opposed such a move given that transit is critical for many of their constituents.
But even restoring dedicated transit funding would fix only one of the myriad of deep flaws in an auto-centric bill that would have told Californians to take a load off their feet, get off the bike, out of the bus, exit the train, and get back in their cars. The legislation also would have gutted funding critical for cleaning our air, investing in safe streets for biking and walking, cut funding for Amtrak, and severely stunted environmental review of projects. If House leadership does make a serious effort to come back with a transportation bill it should address some of these problems beginning with these proposed amendments.
Meanwhile the Senate cleared two major hurdles today with the defeat of the contraception amendment by a floor vote of 51-48 and avoiding a vote on aid to Egypt – Egypt will let American workers go so there was no need to proceed. While neither of these had anything to do with transportation they were offered as amendments to the Senate’s federal transportation reauthorization proposal – MAP-21.
That means that the Senate can now begin debating amendments that will have an effect on the funding levels and policies that would affect the future transportation system of the U.S. and California. There are numerous amendments on the table to ensure continued dedicated funding for safe streets, bridges and roads are repaired, air quality is improved, and transportation investments translate into good jobs. You can find a more comprehensive breakdown of each of the priority amendments T4 America is supporting at the amendment tracker. The Senate could move forward to hear each of these amendments as soon as Friday.
So here’s to the Senate moving along with these amendments and the House coming back with a bipartisan bill that provides a way forward. Either way the clock is ticking towards March 31st when the latest SAFETEA-LU extension is up leaving two options:
- Get the Senate and House bills to conference and pass a new federal transportation bill
- Pass another extension of SAFETEA-LU
Simply put, a lot is at stake in March.