Three GOP Senators Ask Reid to Call Up Six-Month Transport Bill Extension

The senior Republicans on three of the Senate’s four
infrastructure-centric committees today signed onto a letter asking the
leaders of Congress’ upper chamber to call up a six-month extension of
the 2005 transportation law.

Sen_Barbara_Boxer_D_CA_1.jpgSenate environment chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: Politics Now)

In
the letter, Sens. Jim Inhofe (OK), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), and
Richard Shelby (AL) ask both parties’ leaders to overcome the
objections of a "small number of senators" who prevented quick passage
of a six-month extension in September — citing their opposition to using unspent financial bailout money to keep transportation programs running.

The
three Republicans were joined by their Democratic counterparts:
Environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (CA), Commerce Committee
chairman Jay Rockefeller (WV), and Banking Committee chairman Chris
Dodd (CT). Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus also signed the
letter, but the Finance panel’s chief Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley
(IA), did not attach his name.

A call to Grassley’s office
about his stance on a six-month extension of current transportation law
was not immediately returned.

The political climate surrounding infrastructure investment, roiled in recent days by Democrats’ new determination
to pass job-creation legislation before the end of the year, remains
highly uncertain. But the senators’ letter signals that any new
transportation spending is likely to be distributed using the same
funding framework used in the 2005 bill, rather than through any
revamped policy that might put roads and transit projects on a more
equal footing.

The reason, simply put: If a six-month
extension wins approval before the current stopgap transportation
measure expires on December 18, a 2010 jobs bill could well be on its
way to the president’s desk by the time any broad reforms would reach
the top of the congressional agenda.

However, the fate of any
extra infrastructure spending was not mentioned in the senators’
letter, which emphasized the importance of providing a steady funding
stream that would "give states the certainty they need to plan and
contract for" road as well as transit and bike infrastructure projects.
A cancellation of contract authority triggered by the congressional
inaction forced cuts to clean transportation budgets in more than 45 states.

Check out a complete copy of today’s letter after the jump.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

One
of the best ways to spur job creation and economic recovery is through
infrastructure investment. That is why a longer term extension of the
surface transportation program is so important to maintaining our
nation’s vital bridges, roads, public transportation and other related
infrastructure, restoring our economy and creating good jobs for
American workers.

In July, the Committee on Environment and
Public Works, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,
and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs each reported
an 18-month ex tension of the surface transportation program prior to
the expiration of the 2005 surface transportation bill, the Safe
Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy
for Users (SAFETEA-LU), with bipartisan support.

We believe
a multi-month extension of SAFETEA-LU is the best solution. It would
give states the certainty they need to plan and contract for
transportation infrastructure projects. The Department of
Transportation estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportation
and matched by the states supports approximately 35,000 jobs. It would
also give the Department of Transportation’s highway safety agencies
the certainty they need to continue implementing safety-critical
programs that keep motorists safe on our roads.

SAFETEA-LU
expired at the end of September and, unfortunately, there was objection
to floor consideration of the bipartisan legislation extending these
important programs. This necessitated two short term extensions to the
surface transportation program, attached to Continuing Resolutions.
Short term extensions mean less money is available for states, and do
not provide states the certainty they need to keep crucial
transportation projects moving forward.

On a bipartisan
basis, we have decided to move forward with a 6-month extension.
Unfortunately, a small number of Senators continue to object and will
not allow an extension to be considered by the Senate without a cloture
vote.

We urge you to file cloture on the motion to proceed
on the 6-month extension and dedicate the time necessary to complete
this important legislation, so we can put Americans back to work and
keep our economy moving.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Voinovich Joins House Dems in Saying No to Transpo Funding Stopgap

|
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) allied with House Democrats today. (Photo: UPI) The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will move tomorrow on a White House-backed extension of the four-year-old federal transportation law, but at least one of its members is already opposed. George Voinovich (R-OH) linked arms with House Democratic leaders on the transportation panel […]

Lawmakers Cross Party Lines on Transpo Funding as Debate Rages

|
An 18-month extension of existing transportation law cleared the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, but not before spirited debate on a proposal billed as a compromise with House members who remain strongly opposed to the Senate’s stopgap. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate environment committee (Photo: Politics Now) The "clean" re-upping of […]

Make-or-Break Week for Transportation Begins on the Hill

|
After weeks of uncertainty and tension, the congressional impasse over long-term transportation funding is headed for resolution this week — but the reprieve may be temporary. A decisive week lies ahead for House transport chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN). (Photo: Capitol Chatter) When we last left House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), he was calling […]

Road and Transit Groups Join Boxer to Push for Senate Jobs Bill

|
Representatives from Washington’s road and transit lobbies joined Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today to call for swift passage of job-creation legislation that is slated for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress on Monday. Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: AP) Faced with the prospects of a GOP filibuster, […]

Boxer and Inhofe Agree: Transportation Policy Reform Can Wait

|
Green transportation advocates are pressing Congress to refuse any new spending that’s not tied to reform of the existing system — a call that influential senators in both parties ruled out today. Photo: CNN Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), the panel’s ranking GOPer, in endorsing […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Boxer Confirms Bike-Ped Funding, Gang of Six Loves infrastructure Spending

|
At today’s hearing, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee celebrated the bipartisan consensus it has reached on a new transportation reauthorization – but details of that consensus are still not public. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) did confirm that dedicated federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs remains in the bill. Addressing LA Mayor Antonio […]