At least one long wait on Capitol Hill is nearly over. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has finally scheduled a hearing to mark up its version of a long-term highway funding bill for Oct. 22.
That’s exactly seven days before the current short-term patch authorizing spending on transportation runs out on Oct. 27.
That means both chambers of Congress will have to pass one more extension — at least — to keep federal funds flowing for highway projects until the House and Senate can reach agreement on a long-term surface-transportation bill.
“Our nation’s economy depends on a safe, efficient surface transportation system, and one of the Transportation Committee’s priorities is to address the needs of the system,” Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) said in a statement on the planned markup.
“Next week, the Committee will move forward with the policy and authorization provisions of a bill to improve America’s surface transportation infrastructure, reform programs, refocus those programs on national priorities, provide more flexibility and certainty for state and local partners, and welcome innovation,” he continued.
After the T&I Committee completes marking up its legislation, it will still have to be passed by the full House. And both chambers will have to agree to slap in place that next short-term funding patch by Oct. 29.
But those moves will be merely a prelude to circling Congress back to the underlying issue that has long stymied passage of a multi-year highway bill: How to fully fund it in one or more ways that will be acceptable to a majority of members in each chamber.
On July 30, the Senate voted 65-34 to approve a $50-billion six-year bill that would fund federal highway and other surface-transportation infrastructure projects for just three years. The same day, the Senate approved the current funding patch, which the House had passed the day before.
At that time, Rep. Shuster said passage of the extension would provide the House with “time to put forward a fiscally responsible long-term surface transportation proposal when Congress returns [from its August recess] and then go to conference with the Senate. We all share the same goal of completing a long-term bill as soon as possible, and ensuring that critical programs do not shut down before we achieve that goal is the right thing to do.”
That was said two months before the leadership of the House was cast into disarray by Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) abrupt announcement on Sept. 25 that he would be resigning both his seat in Congress and his Speakership, effective Oct. 30.
The T&I markup hearing will be held Thursday, October 22, at 10:00 am EDT in Room 2167 of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
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