This week the Surface Transportation Bill Conference Committee met in what will likely be its only public meeting to finalize work on a compromise bill. Congress moved the November 20 deadline to December 4 to give conferees additional time to complete their work. The conference committee chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) kicked-off the meeting by stating, “There is plenty of common ground between the [House & Senate] proposals to allow us to reach an agreement that both [chambers] can willingly support.” The lead House Democrat on the committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), underscored the importance of achieving an increase in overall funding in the final bill. “I’m hopeful to get higher levels of spending on an annual basis and if funds are so limited that we have to reduce the term of the bill, it’s an option I think should be looked at,” said DeFazio.
The committee announced a timeline which includes finalizing the conference agreement by November 30 and having a House vote on the bill by the December 4 deadline. It remains to be seen whether the Senate will be able to act before that date. They may need a week extension to approve the legislation before it can be sent to President Obama for his signature. Many members of the committee seem hopeful that a final agreement will be reached very soon and that they can craft a measure that will receive the necessary votes in both the House and Senate to be signed by the president.
In a letter sent to conferees this week , ASCE stated that a five-year program which includes significant funding increases should be the goal of the committee. Otherwise the country could begin to see the job losses and reduction in GDP identified by ASCE’s Failure to Act Economic Report.
Now is a critical time to reach out to conference committee members. Please take a moment to determine if your election official(s) sit on this committee and ask them to support a final bill that increases investment in America’s transportation system. Visit our Click and Connect page to identify your elected official! Take action today!