We are reproducing below with the editor’s permission an excerpt from this week’s “Washington Letter on Transportation.” The analysis offers a perceptive and accurate assessment, in our judgment, of the current status of the transportation bill negotiations on Capitol Hill. The full analysis can be made available on request from Gary Hoitsma, editor, [email protected]
Hint of Major Senate Concessions Keeps Hope Alive…
“As Congress enters another make-or-break week on the surface transportation bill. New leader-brokered agreements on project streamlining, transportation enhancements, program consolidations, and a number of other big highway-related issues – most reflecting major concessions away from Senate positions – are expected to be unveiled early this week signaling major progress in the House-Senate negotiations. It is hoped that this progress, in turn, will be enough to convince Congressional leaders in both parties to bless another short-term pre-election extension, probably to August 1, to allow for the larger bill to be fully reconciled, passed and sent to the president before Congress recesses for a summer of Olympics, party conventions and presidential politics. That is the optimistic and hopeful scenario now being painted by many in both parties on Capitol Hill.
“Meanwhile, a backstop six-month extension to punt the whole process into the oblivion of the post-election lame-duck quagmire is also prepared, standing at the ready to be introduced at a moment’s notice in the House this week if negotiating progress is deemed insufficient to get a full bill done in a timely way. Current authorizations expire this Saturday, June 30. House staff sources cautioned not to discount Speaker Boehner’s willingness to pull the plug and move to the six-month extension unless he can truly see bipartisan light at the end of the tunnel that will be acceptable to the majority of the House Republican caucus – a tall order by any calculation.
“The challenge to overcome the many obstacles still standing in the way of enacting a mutually acceptable bill in the next 30 days – politically and logistically — remains immense and virtually insurmountable by common legislative standards. This is why an overcoming of these obstacles now would be considered a truly remarkable if not near-miraculous achievement.
“This would be especially the case regarding having a reconciled bill ready for final passage by the end of this week. Contrary to some media reports suggesting this could be a probable outcome of the weekend talks, an extension is near inevitable, only its length being uncertain.”
C. Kenneth Orski is a public policy consultant and former principal of the Urban Mobility Corporation. He has worked professionally in the field of transportation for over 30 years, in both the public and private sector. He is editor and publisher of Innovation NewsBriefs, now in its 22nd year of publication.