Front of Senate Capitol chambers
Appropriations
Late last Thursday the Senate abandoned efforts to pass an FY '11 Omnibus bill. A number of Republicans, and some Democrats, withdrew their support for the bill over opposition to earmarks. See these two stories for details: Omnibus is Dead and What Transportation Lost When Omnibus Died.

The earmarks are almost certainly dead. See this story for more details: What Happens Next with Earmark Funds?

What happens next? A draft continuing resolution through March 4th. Senate and House votes are expected Tuesday morning. The bill will likely fund USDOT at FY 2010 levels. (A three-day continuing resolution was passed Saturday and expires Tuesday night.) Why March instead of when Congress first returns in January? So House Republicans have plenty of time to rewrite the bill to reflect their priority of reduced spending.

SAFETEA-LU extension
T-LU also would be extended through March 4th, per language in the continuing resolution. This is perhaps a sign that transportation committee leaders are serious about trying to enact a long term authorization. Most observers think it's unlikely a multi-year bill will pass until after the Presidential election.

Bipartisan legislation to delay EPA's looming regulations of green house gas emissions is officially dead for this year. The leader of the effort to restrict the rules, Sen. Rockefeller (D-W.VA.) announced he would resurrect the legislation early in January, and the bill has a very good chance of passing.


Status reports: (Note: These are more complete yet short legislative status reports. It often does not change from week to week, but is provided so you always have the most current status. )





Surface Transportation Authorization:
Congress is currently working on extending SAFETEA-LU through March 4, 2001. T-LU is currently 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 intends to release its authorization proposal in February, though there have been rumors of a later release. President Obama announced a $50B "front loaded" proposal for infrastructure improvements, but neither the House or the Senate included it in their draft '11 appropriations legislation.

Rep. John Mica, the republican who will chair the House Transportation Committee, says folks who think Congress will increase the gas tax are "smoking some kind of funny weed." He made similar comments last spring, noting that there will be only a three to five month window in 2011 to pass a transportation bill. "Gas-Tax Revamp Pushed to Fund Transportation Projects," WSJ

Appropriations:
Congress is working on legislation to fund USDOT and other federal agencies through March 4th, and votes are expected Tuesday. The current enacted continuing resolution (passed last Satursday) funds federal agencies through December 22nd. The Senate abandoned an Omnibus spending bill over opposition to earmarks. It's unlikely the continuing resolution through March 4th, or the subsequent bill through September 30th, will include earmarks. The Omnibus bill designated about $221 million to 57 projects in WA state. (The dollar amount was reduced from the earlier Senate draft bill.)


Aviation Authorization:
The FAA authorization is extended through March 31st, 2011. The FAA has been operating under a series of short-term extensions since the authorization bill expired at the end of fiscal 2007.

Climate Change:
Bipartisan legislation to delay EPA's looming regulations of green house gas emissions is officially dead for this year. The leader of the effort to restrict the rules, Sen. Rockefeller (D-W.VA.) announced he would resurrect the legislation early in January, and the bill has a very good chance of passing.

Some environmental groups are adjusting their tactics for the incoming Congress. The House will have a different approach to climate change and energy issues. Testimony is now available from The Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee recently hearing titled "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response"

Last October, prominent liberal & conservative think tanks joined to release a new climate change proposal. President Obama announced he intends to put the full weight of the Presidency behind climate change legislation in 2011. He'll pursue legislation in "chunks" instead of one big bill as was pursued in 2010. 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 12/20/2010 08:09:00 AM by Larry Ehl |

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