By the American Highway Users Alliance
Early this afternoon, the House passed an extension of MAP-21 (HR 3819) until November 20th by voice vote. The extension will now head to the Senate where EPW Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) may seek to modify it to exclude a rider that extends the positive train control (PTC) deadline by three years. Boxer would prefer PTC to ride on the long-term bill. Since PTC is considered must-pass legislation, Boxer’s view is that it could be used to force a vote on the highway bill before the end of the year. It is unclear how much leverage she will have with Senate Leadership and other Senators on this point. EPW Chairman Inhofe is not joining with Boxer on her PTC delay strategy.
In other news, Congressional and White House negotiators came to a deal on lifting the debt limit and a budget that exceeds the sequester caps. The House will vote on the budget deal tomorrow and the Senate may follow on Thursday. Critics have complained about the closed-door process in getting to the deal. We will review it carefully to see if offsets on the budget deal take away from offsets proposed by the Senate for the highway bill.
Finally, the House is still trying to figure out how to fund the Surface Transportation Reform and Reauthorization (STRR) Act, a portion of which was approved by the T&I Committee last week. Other draft titles including the Energy & Commerce title and the Science title have not been marked up and may be included on the House floor. According to House T&I Ranking Member DeFazio, there is an aggressive approach to get the House bill on the floor next week. However, industry sources have expressed worries that this schedule could be frustrated by the various missing pieces, particularly the revenue title, that are needed to complete the bill and get to a vote for passage.
Despite all of the potential road blocks, there is general confidence that the House will pass its bill prior to the new extension deadline and that a final bill will get out of Conference Committee before the end of the year.