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November 12, 2020 3:45 PM, EST

Senate Committee Unveils Fiscal 2021 Transportation Funding Bill

Livestock truck A provision would prohibit funds from backing the enforcement of FMCSA’s ELD mandate on carriers transporting livestock or insects. (MCCAIG/Getty Images)

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The U.S. Senate committee that oversees funding across the federal government unveiled a plan for fiscal 2021 that will ensure operations continue uninterrupted across agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The bills, which pertain to federal agencies’ budget operations, were announced less than a month before current government funding authority expires.

For the FMCSA, which oversees trucking policy, Senate Republicans proposed providing the agency’s safety operations and programs account with $300.8 million for fiscal 2021. For the agency’s motor carrier safety grants, the appropriators proposed $391.1 million.

FMCSA Appropriations by Transport Topics

Regarding FMCSA, the appropriators included a provision in the measure that would prohibit funds from backing the enforcement of the agency’s electronic logging device mandate on carriers transporting livestock or insects. The provision would permit such to use paper logs to record duty status. According to FMCSA, drivers transporting agricultural commodities are not required to use an ELD if they stay within a 150 air-mile radius for certain workweek durations.

For other transportation agencies, the fiscal 2021 transportation funding bill would provide $48.7 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $18 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, $13 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, and $2.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The Maritime Administration would receive $1.1 billion. Senators also proposed providing $1 billion for an infrastructure grants program.

Senate Republicans, who lead the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, did not consider funding bills prior to this month’s election. Their House counterparts, on the other hand, had proceeded with the appropriations process.

“By and large, these bills are the product of bipartisan cooperation among members of the committee,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee Nov. 10. “As negotiations with the House begin in earnest, I look forward to working with [House] Chairwoman [Nita] Lowey, [Senate] vice chairman [Patrick] Leahy, and [House] ranking member [Kay] Granger to resolve our differences in a bipartisan manner.”

“Time after time, we have demonstrated our willingness to work together and get the job done,” added Shelby. “We have before us the opportunity to deliver for the American people once again.”

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Leahy, the senate panel’s top Democrat, called on colleagues to prioritize pandemic emergency aid during their consideration of the appropriations measures. As he put it, “It is imperative that we do what is necessary to stop this pandemic from spreading. Whether this takes the form of separate legislation, or additional emergency titles added onto these bills, I remain ready to do what is necessary to help a country in crisis.”

Partisan disagreements between Senate and House leadership contributed to a new round of COVID-19 aid not advancing to the president’s desk for enactment.

With government funding expiring on Dec. 11, congressional leaders have yet to announce whether they are confident about the chances of passing the fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, or if they would need to settle on a temporary funding bill to avert a shutdown. Additionally, the White House’s position on funding negotiations remains unannounced.

Earlier this year, the House approved a transportation bill that would provide FMCSA $881 million for its operations. The funding allocation was a $202 million increase from the fiscal 2020-enacted level, and $179 million more than the president’s request.

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