Thursday, December 20, 2007

Federal Legislative Update (Courtesy of APTA)

ADJOURNMENT! Both chambers of Congress adjourned last night. The Senate will conduct pro forma sessions approximately every 3 days to prevent President Bush from making any controversial recess appointments. The second session of the 110th Congress is scheduled to convene on January 15, but no work is scheduled to begin until January 22.

APPROPRIATIONS: The House passed the revised FY 2008 omnibus yesterday by a 272-142 vote, awarding $70 billion in unfettered funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Included in the legislation is $9.4 billion for transit. The President is expected to sign the bill because of the additional war funding, but to give him more time to review the appropriations measure, both chambers passed another continuing resolution (CR), funding the government through Dec. 31. The current CR expires tomorrow night.

FEDERAL AGENCIES: On December 18, the Transportation Department requested information on commercially available technologies that can minimize congestion and improve the safety and performance of the country’s transportation system. Private industry, research groups, and state & local governments will vie to partner with the department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) to do field testing of these technologies in a project known as “SafeTrip-21”. The project will expand on current use of information and communications technology to assist travelers in navigation, accident prevention, avoiding congested areas, and receiving real-time transit information. SafeTrip-21 is expected to be launched at the 2008 Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Federal Legislative Update

All updates courtesy of APTA


The Appropriations omnibus to fund domestic programs in 2008 continues to change frequently. Following Rep. Obey’s comments on Tuesday 12/11 to strip earmarks, legislators from both sides and in both chambers started working on a bill that would keep “vital” earmarks, but still earn the necessary votes.

The Senate may begin discussion as early as Thursday on a $523 billion bill that funds the remaining agencies, as well as offers interim financing for the wars and other emergency needs. GOP leaders in both chambers also indicated on Tuesday that they might be willing to bend a little on the $933 billion cap Bush had placed on all approps bills. They hinted support for a spending package that adheres to the limit offered by Bush, but won’t count the $7-$9 billion in emergency funds into that total.

Sen. McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, plans to offer an amendment that would reach the President’s numbers through an across-the-board cut of 2.5%.

Senate Republicans are predicted to offer an amendment to provide $70 billion in war funding.

Because discussions on an omnibus spending bill have not been fruitful, it almost is inevitable that another short-term continuing resolution will be filed to fund the government while debate continues.

The Energy bill has been amended to remove a national renewable electricity mandate. The revised bill, including the tax package, is expected to be brought to the Senate floor before the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Congress Reconvenes: Takes up Transportation Issues

All reports courtesy of APTA

In terms of Transportation Appropriations, Congress is preparing for an end of year appropriations “omnibus” to include the remaining 11 unsigned spending bills (which includes the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development or "THUD" bill). Efforts have been made to “split the difference” between the funding level requested by Bush and the level appropriated in Congress (a difference of about $22 billion). The new appropriations package will provide $484 billion, about $10.6 billion less than Congress had wanted to spend. If Bush rejects this compromise, Democrats will be forced to decide what programs to continue to fund at current or elevated levels, and what funding to cut. There is a conference meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11 so that the bill can be sent to the President prior to Dec. 14 (when the current funding through a CR expires).

Energy Legislation
Over the recess, staff from both parties negotiated an Energy bill that is likely to see floor action in the House on Wednesday. The bill is a compromise that raises CAFÉ standards to 35 mpg by 2020 and also makes concessions to the automotive industry. Senate Republicans are expected to filibuster if the measure makes it to the floor, but Senate Majority Leader Reid claims to have the 60 votes needed to beat the filibuster. The White House has already threatened a veto.

The Senate EPW Committee will hold a mark-up of S.2191, the Lieberman/Warner climate change bill, on Wednesday, December 5 at 9 a.m. Sen. Boxer, Chair of the EPW committee predicts the bill to be brought up on the Senate floor in February if it passes out of committee. Also, in the House, Reps. Dingell and Boucher are working on climate change legislation to be introduced in early 2008.