The Senate and House return to DC after a week-long recess for an in-district/state work period.

One issue will dominate the week, a proposal to continue 2011 spending for two weeks and avoid a government shutdown. The situation is very fluid, but at this point it appears the House and Senate have agreed on a two-week continuation of 2011 funding that will avoid a government shutdown. the harder negotiation will be determining the spending level for the remainder of the fiscal year. See Will USDOT Shut Down This Friday? for more details.

One other issue this week is of high interest to transportation stakeholders: a likely vote to extend SAFETEA-LU through September 30th, 2011. The bill would continue current funding levels, and includes no policy changes. The current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires at midnight this Friday (March 4).

Congressional transportation committee leaders continue to gather input and draft a multi-year authorization bill. Meanwhile, the President released a broad and general proposal for a six-year $551 billion plan to replace SAFETEA-LU. The proposal does not include a funding mechanism, and it is unclear if and when more details might be released. The President’s plan is focused on “fix-it-first” instead of adding capacity, and would consolidate over 55 highway programs into five programs and merge five transit programs into two programs to expedite project planning and delivery. The House Transportation Committee held field hearings and listening sessions across the country last week, including Vancouver.

The House’s proposed 2011 spending bill contains a number of cuts to transportation programs. Most of the spending reductions come from eliminating 2010 funding for passenger rail, TIGER, and transit New Starts programs that has not been contractually obligated, and eliminating proposed 2011 funding for those programs. Proposed 2011 transportation earmarks were also eliminated, including approximately $221 million designated for 57 projects in WA State.

Status Reports on legislation:

Authorization, SAFETEA-LU
T-LU is extended through March 4 2011, per language in the continuing resolution.  This week Congress should pass a bill extending SAFETEA-LU through September 30, 2011.  Congress will continue to work on a multi-year bill, but most observers think it's unlikely a bill will pass until after the Presidential election. Both the House and Senate have started conducting hearings on a new authorization bill. Related stories: Will Earmark Ban Apply to the Transportation Authorization Bill? and House Field Hearings Will Seek Input On Next Transportation Bill

The House GOP adopted a new legislative rule that will allow the House to allocate less transportation funding than is authorized by SAFETEA-LU. The Senate is not likely to follow suit, setting up a contentious negotiation on the FY 2012 appropriations bills later this year. Read about the potential impact on WA state.

USDOT and federal agencies are funded through March 4. House Republicans have redrafted the House's FFY spending bills, and propose to reduce FY 2011 transportation spending by $11.5 billion. The bill will not include earmarks, with the Senate now following the lead of the House and President Obama.

See these stories for details:
No Earmarks for Two Years, What Happens Next with Earmark Funds?, Omnibus is Dead and What Transportation Lost When the Omnibus Died. The Omnibus bill designated about $221 million to 57 projects in WA state. (The dollar amount was reduced from the earlier Senate draft bill.)

Aviation Authorization:
The Senate and House each passed authorization bills in mid-February. The FAA authorization is currently extended through March 31st, 2011, the 17th extension since the authorization bill expired at the end of fiscal 2007. Another short term extension may be required

Climate Change
Bipartisan legislation to delay EPA's looming regulations of green house gas emissions died last December. Senator Boxer announced she will continue to work to protect EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said he would reintroduce legislation to suspend the EPA's authority, and several bills to delay or strip funding for EPA's greenhouse gas rules have been introduced in the House.

Posted On 2/27/2011 10:14:00 PM by Larry Ehl |

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