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U.S. DOT Releases Administration’s Reauthorization Priorities
On May 16, 2012, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood released a letter outlining the Administration's priorities on federal surface transportation reauthorization. This letter describes the Administration's positions on the transportation reauthorization bills passed by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, currently the subject of the House-Senate conference committee, as well as additional comments on other recent reauthorization proposals.
Focusing on the two conference bills, the Administration supports the transit safety provisions, program consolidation, "Buy America" provisions that require the use of American-made products, and rail programs provided in the Senate's bill. The Administration also supports merit-based, multi-modal funding programs such as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) federal credit assistance program.
The letter reaffirms the Administration's opposition to many of the environmental and project delivery streamlining provisions of the House bill, and also repeats the Administration's threat to veto legislation that requires the permitting of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In other news, on May 18, the House of Representatives instructed its conference committee negotiators to include approval of the Keystone XL pipeline by a vote of 261 in favor and 152 opposed; this motion is non-binding. The 261 votes in favor would be insufficient to override a presidential veto, which requires a two-thirds majority of voting members in each house. In April, the House passed H.R. 4348, the larger surface transportation bill that also required approval of the Keystone pipeline, by a larger margin of 293 in favor and 127 opposed.