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Reauthorization? Maybe Next Month

June 23, 2011

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Congress is inching toward legislation to reauthorize the federal highway program, but details are scarce and the schedule remains a "maybe."

"We may move forward in July," said Justin Harclerode, spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


Another staff member, Blake Androff, spokesman for the ranking Democrat on the committee, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, said that a bill might surface in the first week of the month and move to markup in the second.

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, also foresees action next month.

Horsley anticipates the House proposal will be for a six-year, $218 billion program, which would be in keeping with T&I Committee Chairman John Mica's plan to spend no more than is available from the Highway Trust Fund.

The Senate, meanwhile, is working on a six-year, $339 billion bill, but there is a chance it will settle on a two-year measure. Melissa Porter, senior counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, said in May that until the committee has a better sense of how Congress will get the money, it's hard to look at a six-year reauthorization bill. A short-term bill would give Congress a way to tackle needed policy changes, rather than simply extend the current program, she said.

In a related development, Rep. Rahall and his fellow Democrat, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, have asked Rep. Mica to meet with them to discuss the T&I Committee bill.

Rahall and DeFazio said in their letter that they want a "substantial" multi-year bill, with innovative financing tools and significant program reforms. Among the policies they support are continued backing for transit from the Highway Trust Fund, funding for freight and intermodal projects, and creation of a national freight transportation policy to improve coordination and leverage investments.

They also want the bill to block the Obama administration's pilot program to open the Mexican border to long-distance trucking.

Rahall and DeFazio said that although the committee has traditionally taken a bi-partisan approach to transportation legislation, they have not yet seen a similar level of cooperation in this Congress. On June 20, Androff said Mica had not yet responded to the letter.

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