House Passes Highway-Transit Bill

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed their Surface Transportation bill (a.k.a. “Highway” bill). After votes on over 100 amendments, the bill eventually passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 363-64. Notably, the House rejected the Ribble amendment that would have increased truck weight limitations. TCU had urgedlawmakers numerous times to strike the language, and it looks like they were listening.

Funding Antics

One of the main issues that may have been addressed is the fact that the original bill had authorized six years of spending but only three years of funding. Shortly after midnight yesterday evening, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) took to the House floor to offer an amendment to the funding measures of the bill. His amendment would liquidate the Federal Reserve capital surplus account, which retains the earnings from invested member bank funds.

In what appears to be a deal worked out beforehand, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took to the floor to urge her colleagues to support the amendment. The new measure would raise additional funding to potentially meet the spending outlays of the full six-year bill.

Senate Conference

Ed Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, congratulated House lawmakers on a successful bill:

While passage of this bill is a landmark achievement, we must not lose sight of the fact that the funding levels do not meet our country’s mounting transportation challenges. We hope that as the House and Senate work together in Conference, more revenues will be found to significantly boost transit, highway and bridge investments.

As President Wytkind alluded, the bill now hinges on the next step in the process: conference negotiations with the Senate. Legislators have only 15 days until the current authorization runs out on November 20th. Fortunately, Committee leaders in both chambers have been optimistic about the prospects of getting the legislation through quickly and smoothly.