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July 30, 2014
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Senate Passes Transportation Reauthorization Bill Extension

August 1, 2014 UPDATE:  On July 31, 2014, the U.S House of Representatives rejected the U.S. Senate amendment by a vote of 272-150.  The House version of H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, then returned to the U.S. Senate later the same day, where it was approved by a vote of 81-13.  In the absence of Congressional action, the Secretary of Transportation had previously warned that U.S. DOT would begin cash management techniques August 1, 2014 to cope with insufficient revenues in the Highway Trust Fund. The President is expected to sign the bill shortly.
 
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On July 29, 2014, the U.S. Senate approved an amended version of H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, by a vote of 79 in favor and 18 opposed.  The version passed by the Senate would provide $8.1 billion in transfers to the Highway Trust Fund to extend the federal transportation program through December 19, 2014.  Federal transportation programs are currently scheduled to expire on September 30, 2014.
 
As passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 5021 would provide an eight-month extension of the nation's highway and transit programs through May 31, 2015, requiring $10.9 billion in transfers to the Highway Trust Fund.  The bill had been previously marked up by the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on July 10 and was passed by the full House on July 15.
 
Prior to its roll call vote, the Senate considered four amendments to H.R. 5021:
 
  • Wyden #3582 (Approved: 71-26).  To replace H.R. 5021 with the text of the Preserving America's Transit and Highways (PATH) Act of 2014, the extension bill reported by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on July 10.  The PATH Act would also provide an eight-month extension of the federal transportation program, although it differs from H.R. 5021 in some of the revenue sources relied on to offset transfers to the Highway Trust Fund. 
  • Carper-Corker-Boxer #3583 (Approved 66-31). To replace H.R. 5021 with an extension bill of shorter duration, extending the federal transportation program through December 2014, rather than May 31, 2015.  This amendment would rely on the same revenue sources as the PATH Act, with the exception of its pension smoothing provisions.  
  • Lee #3584 (Rejected: 28-69). To devolve the federal transportation program, and its associated funding, to the states.  This amendment would substitute the text of the proposed Transportation Empowerment Act, S. 1702, for the text of H.R. 5021.  
  • Toomey #3585 (Rejected 47-50). To exempt the reconstruction of transportation facilities damaged by a natural disaster from the federal environmental review process.
The Senate first approved the Wyden amendment and then the Carper-Corker-Boxer amendment, but rejected the Lee and Toomey amendments.  The result is that H.R. 5021 now returns to the House as amended, covering a shorter extension period and relying on a different bundle of revenue offsets.  Further congressional action is expected later this week -- both the House and Senate will begin their August recesses on Friday, August 1, the same day that the Secretary of Transportation has warned U.S. DOT will begin cash management techniques to cope with insufficient revenues in the Highway Trust Fund. 
 

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