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03/02/2012

House 'at a standstill' on transportation spending bill

With less than 30 days remaining before federal funding for highway construction runs out, Congress is no closer to enacting a new surface transportation spending bill than it was a week ago.  In fact, today it may be even more of a political uphill climb.

Only a week ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave up on passing the five-year, $260 billion bill that Republicans rammed through the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, with nary a single Democratic vote, in mid-February.  He said a shorter bill, probably of 18 months' duration, would be considered.

Now, according to an article on the website of The Hill, the Capitol Hill news daily, Boehner has done a complete turnabout, saying Thursday there is no enthusiasm in the House for a short-term authorization.

More ominously, an article on the website Politico reports that House "leadership privately concedes they're at a standstill and don't know what to do."

Meanwhile, AASHTO reported today that a vote to end debate on a rewritten version of the Senate's two-year, $106 billion bill could occur Tuesday.

Matt Reiffer, director of transportation programs for ACEC in Washington, acknowledged that "the situation with the transportation bill in the House remains fluid." 

"It is critical that members of Congress hear from you, their constituents, this week about the importance of moving ahead with a long-term bill that at least maintains current funding levels," Reiffer said.

"The alternative is a short-term extension that exposes both highways and transit to funding cuts and simply prolongs the uncertainty that is undermining the long-term viability of the program."

ACEC has developed a sample letter that members can email or print on firm letterhead and fax to members of Congress.


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