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July 14, 2020 9:15 PM, EDT

House Panel OKs Fiscal 2021 Transportation Funding Bill

Trucks on I-71 in Northern KentuckyTrucks on I-71 in Northern Kentucky. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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Legislation that would increase funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was approved during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on July 14.

FMCSA would receive $881 million for operations under the fiscal 2021 transportation funding measure. The proposed funding allocation for the agency would be a $202 million increase from the fiscal 2020-enacted level and $179 million more than the president’s request.

The bill heads to the floor for consideration. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) indicated he intends to schedule fiscal 2021 funding measures before the end of the month.

FMCSA logo

Overall, the legislation would provide $107.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, an increase of $21.1 billion from the fiscal 2020-enacted level and $19.4 billion more than the president’s request. Under the legislation, the Federal Highway Administration would receive $62.9 billion. The Federal Transit Administration would receive $18.9 billion, and the Federal Aviation Administration would receive $18.1 billion. The measure also would provide $1 billion for infrastructure grants, matching the president’s request. And, it would provide $3 million for the Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence, which was established in fiscal 2020.

To assist states and municipalities during the pandemic, the bill includes $75 billion in supplemental aid for transportation and housing programs.

David Price

Price

“Every day, our constituents see the consequences of inadequate investment in our housing and transportation infrastructure,” Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement. “Natural disasters are increasing in severity and number, exacerbated by accelerating climate change. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is ravaging communities, revealing and deepening existing disparities.”

Added Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.): “The emergency funding in this bill is pivotal to kick-start a strong and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse. After an unprecedented year of challenges, the investments in this bill lay the foundations for sustained economic growth and expanded opportunity for every American in every corner of our nation.”

In a sign of the times, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) praised the bill’s provision related to masks on airplanes.

“I’ve been calling on the Trump administration for months to put forth a clear, consistent mask requirement that helps stop the spread of this insidious virus in enclosed spaces such as airplane cabins, public transit and Amtrak trains,” he said.

On the Senate side, Republican leaders have yet to consider their versions of the funding bills. Senior Democrats are calling for the consideration of appropriations measures before the expiration of funding authority in September.

Patrick Leahy

Leahy

“There is bipartisan agreement that we need to address the COVID pandemic,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “And if we want to truly address the issues of racial injustice that George Floyd’s tragic death has brought to the surface, we need more than symbolism; we need to appropriate money for programs that advance these issues. Offering and considering amendments related to appropriations to address the most important issues of the day is not partisan, it is the job the committee is here to do.”

To avert a shutdown across federal agencies, Congress needs to approve funding bills prior to Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Inability to approve such bills would likely necessitate short-term funding legislation.

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