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September 21st, 2009
THE DIG
Three (instead of 18) month proposed extension of Transportation Bill soon coming

Tom McNamara, Blueprint America

Rep. James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Every six years the law authorizing national transportation policy and funding needs renewal. The current law expires Sept. 30 — in nine days.

Without some kind of action, legislation to extend the current transportation law by 18 months — already in place in the Senate and endorsed by the Obama administration — would almost certainly have to pass in order ensure transportation funding past the end of the month.

Rep. James Oberstar (D., Minn.), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is staunchly against an 18-month delay. As a result, it is likely he will propose a three-month extension later this week.

This comes after months of pushing for his own plan, to not only reauthorize the transportation bill, but also increase federal funding (from $286 billion in 2005 to a proposed $450 billion) and restructure the practices of the Department of Transportation.

Still, with time running out to pass this new legislation, supporters of Rep. Oberstar’s bill are beginning to accept the idea of an extension of the existing law.

After months of opposing a delay, for example, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, recently said a three-month extension would be “reasonable”.

That said, three months may not be enough time to move a spending bill of this size through a Congress already in gridlock over the health care debate. The House Ways and Means Committee, which must determine the legislation’s funding, has yet to set a date to hear the bill. Moreover, the bill has not been marked up in Rep. Oberstar’s own committee.

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