Congress returns to DC for a legislative session and is scheduled to adjourn on October 8th.  House leaders are discussing adjourning a week earlier. Congressional Quarterly notes that Congressional Members "seeking re-election will not want to be in Washington any longer than necessary while their opponents are attacking them in their districts." Congress is also scheduled to return after the elections for a lame duck session.

The primary issues Congress will be working are the FY 2011 appropriations bills, extending Bush-era personal tax rates which are scheduled to expire at year's end, and a small-business tax cut  & lending package.  

Status Reports:

Surface Transportation Authorization:
SAFETEA-LU is extended through December 31, 2010, through the H.I.R.E. Act (HR 2847). The legislation restores funding rescissions enacted at the end of FY 2009, and provides the authorized funding level for 2010. The Senate EPW staff are drafting their version of an authorization bill, while the House released its draft bill in 2009.  USDOT continues to work on its authorization principles, but publication continues to be postponed.  President Obama recently announced a $50B "front loaded" proposal.  

Appropriations:
The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a FY 2011 spending bill in late July. Senators Murray and Cantwell designated WA projects for funding. It is unclear if the full Senate will debate and act on the bill prior to October 1 when the new fiscal year begins.  The full House approved a FY 2011 spending bill (HR 5850) in late July. It contained the fewest number of earmarks for WA state in over a decade.

It's unlikely that Congress will pass a transportation appropriations bills before October 1st (the beginning of a new federal fiscal year). That would result in a continuing resolution (short-term funding & spending bill) through November or December, or perhaps early 2011.

Aviation Authorization:
Both chambers have passed legislation; conferees have not been named though House and Senate negotiators have been trying to reach an agreement in advance of a formal conference.  The FAA has been operating under a series of short-term extensions since the authorization bill expired at the end of fiscal 2007.

Jobs bill:
Congress enacted an extension of unemployment benefits in July, and continues to work on various and scaled-down jobs/economic stimulus legislation. It is unlikely that any of those bills will include transportation programs.

Climate Change:
The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill in June 2009. Similar legislation remains stalled in the Senate over opposition from Republicans and a handful of Democrats. Prospects for passage this year are slim. Congress may again vote on delaying the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for two years. Previous votes to delay the authority have failed.

Posted On 9/13/2010 05:00:00 AM by Larry Ehl |

edit post