House Passes Another Extension of Transportation Programs Through September 30th >>

April 20th, 2012

House Passes Another Extension of Transportation Programs Through September 30th

On Wednesday, April 18th, the House of Representatives passed HR 4348, a bill to extend the authorization of transportation programs until September 30th, by a vote of 293-127. Although Congress just passed an extension of transportation programs through June 30th, House Republican leadership decided to move forward with another extension in order to proceed to a Conference Committee with the Senate on it’s long-term authorization of transportation programs, MAP-21 (S.1813) as well as to continue to put pressure on the Administration with respect to the Keystone Pipeline. The House has struggled to pass a long-term reauthorization of transportation programs of its own and so, with this legislation (HR 4348), the House Republican leadership sidesteps these issues and proceeds directly to a Conference Committee. It is hoped that the Conference Committee will be able to develop a long-term reauthorization that both the House and Senate could support.

In addition to the extension and the Keystone Pipeline provision, three amendments to HR 4348 were approved on the floor: (1) ensuring that no less than the amount of funds be spent on ports as is generated by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund; (2) easing EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants; and (3) speeding up environmental approval of highway projects.

In general, Democrats in the House were not supportive of this bill, however 69 Democrats did vote for the bill, including the Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee, Nick Rahall. This support for the bill despite the Keystone provision was due to the anticipated call for a Conference Committee, which Democrats hope would result in a long-term reauthorization of transportation programs.

The Conference Committee will have until September 30th to negotiate and develop a long-term reauthorization bill that could be voted on by both the Senate and House. Considering the wide differences that reportedly remain between the House and Senate, it seems likely that a lengthy Conference Committee will in fact be needed. Further, given the difficulties of finding an agreement between the House and Senate, it would not be surprising if another extension of programs until after the November Congressional and Presidential election is passed. As senior Republican, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) said, “I don’t see how you get a bill before the election, but stranger things have happened.” However, this is not likely to occur until September at the earliest.

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