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Agencies at the U.S. Department of Transportation and throughout the federal government will continue to operate through Dec. 20 after President Donald Trump signed a monthlong funding bill the Senate passed Nov. 21.
The White House had signaled support for the temporary funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, which the senators backed by a vote of 74-20.
The funding authority for the federal apparatus was set to expire Nov. 21.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) indicated the short-term measure would provide funding leaders with additional time to finalize the fiscal 2020 spending bills. Negotiations are ongoing, with partisan disagreements lingering over proposed funding for a wall between the United States and Mexico.
The Senate’s action came two days after the House advanced the measure by a vote of 231-192. House Democrats praised the vote.
“I am pleased that we are keeping government open, assuring full funding for a fair and accurate Census, and ensuring a pay raise for our military,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said. “Even with passage of this [continuing resolution], American families, businesses and communities need the certainty of full-year funding. Only by coming together in good faith can we settle subcommittee allocations and enact responsible, full-year spending bills that invest in critical priorities.”
The continuing resolution would maintain current funding levels across the government. A provision added to the measure would repeal a section of the 2015 FAST Act highway law to avoid the rescission of $7.6 billion in highway funding from states in fiscal 2020. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, explained the issue: “Without this provision, each of our states would have seen significant cuts to their highway funding — the last thing we need given the dire state of infrastructure in America today.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was in favor of repealing a section of the 2015 FAST Act highway law to avoid the rescission of $7.6 billion in highway funding from states in fiscal 2020. (C-SPAN)
Nearly four dozen groups, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had urged congressional leaders to sign off on the repeal.
“It is especially critical to repeal this provision during the current calendar year because in the worst-case scenario, states may be forced to de-obligate existing projects in order to provide the necessary amount of contract authority to be rescinded. If this happens next spring or summer at the peak of the construction season, the effect would be especially devastating,” the transportation groups wrote Nov. 14.
The House has passed its fiscal 2020 appropriations bills. This fall, the Senate advanced a legislative package that included a bill that would provide $74.3 billion for programs across the federal transportation system, as well as provide for housing assistance and community development through fiscal 2020. Specifically, the bill would provide $1 billion for infrastructure grants and $679 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
While appropriators on Capitol Hill continue to negotiate a path forward on fiscal 2020 funding, the House is proceeding with an impeachment inquiry of Trump. Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled the potential for scheduling a vote this fall on the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed last year.
Trump told his Cabinet on Nov. 19 that USMCA remains a priority. As he put it, “The Democrats want to have it. The unions want it. The farmers want it. The manufacturers want it. … And we’re having a problem, because Mexico and Canada are calling, saying, ‘What’s going on?’ And it’s sitting on [Pelosi’s] desk.”
“So she’s using USMCA to get the impeachment vote,” the president added.
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