ASCE Reports: Surface Transportation Bills Slowly Move Forward

After years of waiting on movement of surface transportation legislation, both Houses of Congress are currently debating bills.  The two versions are significantly different and face uncertain futures as debate continues about how to fund much-needed infrastructure improvements that will also create jobs.  Both the House and Senate are in recess next week, giving ASCE’s members time to ask their legislators to vote yes on these bills.

Senate consideration of its bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) has been bi-partisan in nature and Senate leaders are hopeful that a final bill can be approved the week of February 27.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has set up a series of votes on components of the chamber’s two year reauthorization bill, MAP-21. These votes are the next hurdles that must be overcome in order for the Senate to reach a vote on final passage.

In the House, debate on the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7) has been much more contentious as opposition to several components, as well as to the overall cost of the bill, continues to be an issue.  Earlier this week, leaders announced they would postpone votes on the bill until after the President’s Day recess week. House leadership had originally planned on finishing the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, H.R. 7, before the recess.  However, several issues arose over the course of the week pushing the bill back until consideration the week of February 27th. The postponement of a vote on H.R. 7 is due in part to the pay roll tax cut extension utilizing the bill’s spending offset and also to a large number of amendments. In the weeks ahead leadership must define a new funding offset, which is unclear at this time. The House Rules Committee will also have to sort through the nearly 300 amendments that have been filed on the bill in order to provide an open debate process.

On Tuesday leadership announced that they would be breaking H.R. 7 into three pieces — the drilling title, the funding package, and the policy reforms — and each would be considered separately. If each were to pass separately, House procedure would allow for them to be tied back together. The reasoning behind the separate votes is that it allows Members to vote against the funding mechanisms or the drilling, but still vote for the overall policy reforms.

ASCE strongly supports passage of both bills in order to move closer to the enactment of long-term transportation authorization legislation.  ASCE staff has been meeting with House and Senate offices this week in order to urge legislators to vote “yes” on surface transportation legislation. If either or both of these bills fails, Congress will likely end its quest to pass comprehensive transportation reform legislation this year, imperiling transportation funding and jobs for many ASCE

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