HOUSE PASSES 90-DAY EXTENSION; CONFERENCE WITH SENATE IS NEXT CRUCIAL STEP
Print this Article | Send to Colleague
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 90-day extension of the surface transportation program (from June 30 to Sept. 30) at current funding levels by a vote of 293 to127 on April 18, setting the table for a conference with the Senate on a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. Senate conferees were announced Tuesday, April 24, with eight Democrats and six Republicans: Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), David Vitter (R-La.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). The House could vote on a motion to proceed to conference as early as today, April 25.
The bill, H.R.4348, includes a provision approving the Keystone XL pipeline and the RESTORE Act, which distributes money to the Gulf Coast states affected by the BP oil spill two years ago. Three amendments were debated on the House floor, including one offered by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) that encompasses several environmental streamlining overhaul provisions that were in the original draft of H.R.7and passed by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in February. This was offered in response to growing frustration from House Republicans over the extension’s lack of policy reforms, thereby tossing aside significant bargaining chips that could be used in conference. The Ribble amendment passed 255 to165. The other two amendments dealt with the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund spending and coal ash regulation. Both were passed on voice vote.
Inclusion of the Keystone XL pipeline language in the House bill by the GOP will likely be the most contentious item to be considered during conference negotiations, as supporters and opponents are already digging in their heels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is forced to deal with supporters within his own party, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman – and conferee – Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Additionally, the White House has threatened to veto the bill if the Keystone provisions are included.
The text of the House extension bill (H.R.4348) can be found here. Title I of the bill is the surface transportation extension; Title II is the Keystone XL approval legislation; and Title III is the RESTORE Act (spending the BP Gulf Coast settlement money).
NSSGA will keep members advised of developments and will call upon those members with ties to the House and Senate conferees once they are named to urge swift action on the bill.