The conference committee charged with crafting a final surface transportation authorization bill met yesterday afternoon, beginning what is hoped to be a solution to the 950 days and nine extensions since the last multi-year surface transportation bill.
ASCE staff attended the first meeting of the surface transportation conference committee yesterday, with Senate and House conferees taking the opportunity to give opening remarks on what is anticipated to be one of the final hurdles in passing a transportation bill. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), author of MAP-21 (S. 1813) and chair of the conference committee, began the meeting with a statement highlighting the bipartisan Senate bill. Sen. Boxer stressed that “failure is not an option” and implored members to act quickly in hashing out compromise legislation, setting a target of early June for a deal to be struck. She was followed by Representative John Mica (R-FL), selected as vice-chair of the conference, who also stressed the economic importance of a bill. The issues of Keystone XL, funding and financing options, an amendment stripping EPA of regulatory power over coal ash, and House language streamlining environmental policy still remained the most important issues needing compromise. However, it did appear during many of the remarks there existed support for the RESTORE Act, Senate TIFIA language, as well as the RAMP Act. The RESTORE Act would direct fines from oil companies responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill to Gulf Coast restoration and clean-up efforts, and the RAMP Act would ensure revenue in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be dedicated and used solely for harbor maintenance programs. The general feeling throughout the opening statements was far less acrimonious than the House Transportation and Infrastructure markup of H.R. 7, which saw lawmakers bicker over amendments into the early hours of the morning this past February. Throughout the opening statements, the majority of lawmakers around the table stressed how critical it was to work quickly to get this done and how vital a bill is to job creation, with both sides stressing the need to work for the American people. One memorable line came from Representative Nick Rahall, the ranking minority member on the House T&I committee – “we cannot let hard heads get in the way of hard hats”.
TAKE ACTION NOW! Please visit ASCE’s Click and Connect with Congress advocacy website to get started writing your personal message to your Representative and/or Senator who serves on the conference committee. Ask him or her to support prompt movement on conference negotiations so that a final bill can be completed for the president’s signature as soon as possible, ideally before the end of June. Your lawmakers especially need to hear how lack of a transportation bill may be affecting you personally, or your local community or state. If transportation is not your area of practice, please share your experiences as a user of transportation systems in your local area.
Members of the Transportation Conference Committee:
Alaska: Rep. Don Young (R-AL) Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby (R) Arkansas: Rep. Rick Crawford (R) California: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), Rep. Henry Waxman (D) District of Columbia: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Rep. Steve Southerland (R), Rep. Corrine Brown (D), Rep. John Mica (R) Illinois: Sen. Richard Durbin (D), Rep. Jerry Costello (D) Indiana: Rep. Larry Bucshon (D) Iowa: Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) Kentucky: Rep. Edward Whitfield (R) Louisiana: Sen. David Vitter (R) Maryland: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) Massachusetts: Rep. Edward Markey (D) Michigan: Rep. Dave Camp (R), Rep. Fred Upton (R) Minnesota: Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D) New Jersey: Sen. Robert Menendez (D) New York: Sen. Charles Schumer (D), Rep. Tim Bishop (D), Rep. Richard Hanna (R), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) North Dakota: Sen. John Hoeven (R) Ohio: Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) Oklahoma: Sen. James Inhofe (R), Rep. James Lankford (R) Oregon: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) Pennsylvania: Rep. Bill Shuster (R) South Carolina: Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) South Dakota: Sen. Tim Johnson (D) Tennessee: Rep. John Duncan (R) Texas: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), Rep. Ralph Hall (R), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), Rep. Rob Bishop (R) Washington: Rep. Doc Hastings (R), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) West Virginia: Sen. John Rockefeller, IV (D), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), Rep. Nick Rahall, II (D) Wisconsin: Rep. Reid Ribble (R)