The likelihood of the surface transportation bill being completed by June 30th is beginning to look bleak. Democrats and Republicans have continued to discuss final language for a conference report; however partisan rhetoric is being passed back and forth at a steadier pace.
Senate leadership stated on Tuesday that a bill was still possible, while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) maintains that he would like to see a bill pass, but if one does not he will offer a six month extension instead. At this time negotiations are still focused on the core transportation issues; meaning funding, the Keystone pipeline, and a coal ash provision still will need to be worked out. In regards to the core transportation issues, several are still proving contentious, including the bicycle/pedestrian spending program, the formulas used to divide money among the states, the environmental streamlining provisions, and program consolidation.
On Wednesday Senate Democrats held a rally urging House Republicans to work with the Senate to pass a surface transportation bill by June 30th. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is Chairman of the conference committee, kicked off the rally and was followed by 7 of her Senate colleagues, including conference committee member Chuck Schumer (D-NY). All of the Senators in attendance blamed a small group of House Republicans for holding up the bill and hurting the economy. While Senator Boxer said negotiators continue to “make progress,” she also said “there’s a definite lack of a sense of urgency, there’s a definite lack of leadership in the House, unlike we had in the Senate from Republicans and Democrats, and it’s very disturbing and disappointing.”
Shortly after the rally on Wednesday House Republicans shot back. House Transportation head John Mica (R-Fla.) quickly released a statement saying he is “disappointed in the fact that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals” or the Keystone XL pipeline. While Representative, and conferee, Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) stated that he is “extremely disappointed in Boxer’s reluctance to negotiate in good faith”.
ASCE continues to encourage Key Contacts to reach out to their legislators and urge them to pass a bill by June 30th.