SENATE AND HOUSE SET TO PASS FY’14 TRANSPORTATION SPENDING BILLS

The U.S. Senate continued consideration this week of its FY’14 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (S.1243), the spending measure covering nearly all U.S. Department of Transportation programs, with the goal of voting for final passage as early as July 31.  The $54 billion bill is $2.3 billion more than the FY’13 enacted level and nearly $10 billion more than the House version.  Several amendments are pending, including one by Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) that would require DOT to assess the impact on domestic employment before issuing waivers of “buy American” requirements for federal highway projects and another by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) requiring the department to report to Congress on the condition of each state’s highways and bridges.

On the south side of the U.S. Capitol Building, the House’s version of the THUD bill (H.R.2610) hit the floor July 30 under an open rule, meaning any member can offer any germane amendment that conforms to House and budget rules.  This will consume some serious floor time, but the $44.1 billion spending bill is expected to pass before members leave town to begin the August recess.  Despite the $10 billion gap in funding, both bills fully fund highway and transportation safety programs as authorized under last year’s MAP-21surface transportation bill, including a $557 million boost to fill the gap between the Highway Trust Fund receipts and authorized highway, rail and transit expenditures.

The balance of the week in the Senate will be spent confirming a number of President Obama’s nominations, including Gen. Martin Dempsey to serve a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and three seats on the National Labor Relations Board.  The House, meanwhile, will likely pass a student-loan bill and then move to pass a series of “message” bills aimed at stopping government waste and abuse.  This, once again, includes the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, a bill that would give Congress the power to block any federal rule that carries an annual price tag of $100 million or more.  The REINS Act was first introduced by former Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) during the 112th Congress and is now being championed by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.).  NSSGA continues to support the REINS Act and is a signatory to the attached coalition letter here.