The fate of a provision tucked in the transportation bills in the House and Senate that would suspend enforcement of the electronic logging device rule for livestock haulers remains uncertain as lawmakers approach a Sept. 30 government funding deadline.
House and Senate funding leaders have yet to agree on the parameters of the fiscal 2019 transportation measure.
While the Senate last month advanced its fiscal 2019 transportation bill that specifically would deny funds for the enforcement of the ELD rule for livestock haulers during fiscal 2019, the House has yet to advance its version.
Congress has about two weeks to wrap up negotiations on fiscal 2019 funding questions to avoid a government shutdown. With the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, transportation funding leaders still have not announced when the transportation bill would be called up for a vote in the House.
A continuing resolution was approved in the spring of this year for the most recent authorization of government funding. Under that continuing resolution, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was directed not to enforce the ELD rule for agriculture-related transportation through Sept. 30.
FMCSA also had issued two 90-day temporary waivers from the ELD rule for parts of the agriculture sector.
The ELD rule took effect Dec. 18, 2017, requiring carriers to equip trucks with the devices to track drivers’ hours of service. The ELD provision attached to both fiscal 2019 funding measures was the result of industry pushback over a mandate deemed inflexible for haulers’ schedules.
However, key House Democrats objected to the ELD provisions when the legislation was considered in committee.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sept. 7 expressed optimism about his caucus’ capacity to finalize the 12-bill appropriations process prior to Sept. 30, and avoid relying on another continuing resolution. The previous day, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had shared that sentiment with reporters on Capitol Hill.
“We have a very good understanding with the president,” Ryan said. “We want to get as many bills signed into law this month and we have a very good agreement and understanding that we’re going to keep government funded.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has insisted that congressional leaders avoid sending him a continuing resolution designed to keep the government funded beyond the end of the month. And, besides calling for the fiscal 2019 funding bills specific to government agencies, the president also is pushing the Republican-led Congress to dedicate funding for a wall along the Mexican border, a major 2016 campaign promise. Otherwise, he would consider a shutdown of the government if wall funding is not realized.
Overall, the Senate transportation funding bill would provide the U.S. Department of Transportation with $26.6 billion in discretionary spending. FMCSA would receive $667 million. The House bill would provide $27.8 billion in discretionary funding, and $666 million for FMCSA.
Lawmakers are likely to consider the first tranche of funding legislation ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. The legislation would pertain to energy and water programs, the legislative branch, and military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Enacting those bills would mark the first time since fiscal 2009 that three out of the 12 annual appropriations bills were approved before the start of the new fiscal year.
Senate funding leader Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) applauded that bill’s progress.
“Success here would generate momentum for the critical work that lies ahead. For example, a couple of weeks ago the Senate passed another appropriations package that contained the Defense and Labor-[Health and Human Services] bills,” Shelby said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member on the Appropriations panel, agreed Congress was demonstrating the ability to “work together” on funding the government “when we put partisan politics aside and focus on the priorities of the American people.”
“This package remains a positive step forward in returning the appropriations process to regular order,” Leahy added.