July 17th, 2009
The Ride: 18-month extension passes the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Tom McNamara, Blueprint America

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), pictured in the front, second from right, at the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension Project in Los Angeles last February. Sen. Boxer is also the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee || photo: The Los Angeles Times

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed an 18-month extension of the existing federal transportation law as the new transportation bill remains waiting in the House. Though the new bill has already had some debate and mark-up in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D., Minn.) introduced the legislation last month, the bill also needs to be heard before the House Ways and Means Committee so the funding portion of it can be determined.

That said, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures will hear the argument for the new transportation legislation on Thursday, July 23, next week. While testifying witnesses have not been named, seemingly the case will be made for the Ways and Means Committee to take a break from the revenue portion of the Healthcare bill, which, according to Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D., NY), is the Committee’s only focus.

Overall, Congress’ concentration on Healthcare has come from the top — President Barack Obama, who also wants the extension of the current transportation law. Still, only the transportation legislation has been able to make significant progress against the Obama Administration’s agenda.

Rep. Oberstar has had no problem being at odds with the President, though both are of the same party. The Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman has gained the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif) and some ranking Republican members in both the House and Senate. Most recently, Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) was the lone dissenting vote as 18-month extension passed in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Voinovich said, “Everyone realizes the current law is inadequate to get the job done.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been outspoken in her support for the delay of the new transportation bill as she has even set-back her own climate reform bill until at least September.

Even now, as Rep. Oberstar tries to push his new transportation bill through Congress, he is up against an 18-month extension of the current law that has already passed a Senate Committee.

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