Tom McNamara, Blueprint America
With Congress back after a summer recess, President Barack Obama, in an address before both the House and Senate on Wednesday, again made clear that the government’s business at this moment is health care reform.
As a result, major climate legislation has been delayed twice in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. At the same time, similar legislation in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — a $450 billion bill to overhaul transportation funding and policy nationally — has not been put off, at least by Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D., Minn.).
But the Senate, led by Sen. Boxer, has legislation in place — and much farther along than the House transportation bill — to authorize just under $30 billion to extend the current transportation law by another 18 months. This would effectively delay Rep. Oberstar’s legislation with or without his support.
One way or another, action on federal transportation policy needs to come by the end of the month as the current law, which funds transportation projects and programs from mass transit upgrades to road and bridge repair to high speed rail development, expires Sept. 30.
Last month, while on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Rep. Oberstar said:
It is disappointing that after eight years of a Bush administration that said no to robust investment in transportation now the Democratic administration says ‘well not now … 18 months’. The nation doesn’t have 18 months… People need jobs now.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman continued:
We’ve reported our six-year bill out of subcommittee and the week when we come back after Labor Day we’ll report it from full committee… I expect to have it on the floor by the third week of September; $450 billion over the next six years and the administration’s either going to come along or we’re going to roll them over.
Still, a report Thursday by The Wall Street Journal suggests that Rep. Oberstar sees passage of his bill unlikely this fall and that an extension of the current transportation law is likely.