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2009 Transportation Bill

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

3:21 PM PST on November 17, 2009

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:

Oneof the best ways to spur job creation and economic recovery is throughinfrastructure investment. That is why a longer term extension of thesurface transportation program is so important to maintaining ournation's vital bridges, roads, public transportation and other relatedinfrastructure, restoring our economy and creating good jobs forAmerican workers.

In July, the Committee on Environment andPublic Works, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs each reportedan 18-month ex tension of the surface transportation program prior tothe expiration of the 2005 surface transportation bill, the SafeAccountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacyfor Users (SAFETEA-LU), with bipartisan support.

We believea multi-month extension of SAFETEA-LU is the best solution. It wouldgive states the certainty they need to plan and contract fortransportation infrastructure projects. The Department ofTransportation estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportationand matched by the states supports approximately 35,000 jobs. It wouldalso give the Department of Transportation's highway safety agenciesthe certainty they need to continue implementing safety-criticalprograms that keep motorists safe on our roads.

SAFETEA-LUexpired at the end of September and, unfortunately, there was objectionto floor consideration of the bipartisan legislation extending theseimportant programs. This necessitated two short term extensions to thesurface transportation program, attached to Continuing Resolutions.Short term extensions mean less money is available for states, and donot provide states the certainty they need to keep crucialtransportation projects moving forward.

On a bipartisanbasis, we have decided to move forward with a 6-month extension.Unfortunately, a small number of Senators continue to object and willnot allow an extension to be considered by the Senate without a cloturevote.

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

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