Both the House and Senate proposals to enact a new transportation authorization bill have stalled in their respective chambers. And as different as the bills are (see comparative summary), so are the reasons for their current state.
In the House, proponents of the bill contend that the delay is over the time needed to analyze the more than 300 amendments that have been submitted. But the fact is they have run into a brick wall of opposition from outside groups and from members of their own Republican caucus, especially those whose districts are in urban and metropolitan areas. The biggest issue for them is their opposition to removing public transit funding from its current protected situation to a general fund appropriation. The bottom line seems to be that it is going to be very difficult to move this bill in its current form. Kudos to League members who have spoken with their congressional representative about the bill. Keep it up!
The situation with the Senate bill is far different, given the bi-partisan work that has gone into its development, No, the Senate bill is literally being held up by a arcane rule that allows a Senator to place a hold on any bill over any matter. And, several Republican senators have done just that. As a example, Senator and presidential candidate Ron Paul has placed a “hold” on the bill until his amendment ending foreight aid to Egypt is taken up! One really has to wonder how the Senate has ever gotten anything done over the years with such a rule or a filibuster rule that allows the minority to control the process.
So with the latest extension deadline of March 31 looming, bets are that we’ll see another extension before we see a final bill. Look for continuing updates through our “Inside 208” blog and weekly Legislative LINK e-newsletter.
Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or by e-mail.