clear
Thursday May 26th, 2016 3:18AM

Lawmakers try to save stalled transportation bill

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - House and Senate leaders are making a last-ditch effort to revive stalled legislation to overhaul federal transportation programs - Congress' best bet for passage of a major jobs bill this year - but prospects for passage before the November election are dimming.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as two key committee chairmen, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., are scheduled to meet Tuesday to try to reach an agreement on how to handle a collection of sensitive policy and financing matters still in dispute.

A 47-member House-Senate committee has been holding negotiations on the bill for over a month, but they have been unable to reach agreement on a host of difficult issues, lawmakers involved in the process and their staffs said.

Time is running extremely short. Authority to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund - the main source of federal transportation aid to states - expires June 30. As a practical matter, congressional leaders need to make a decision by about Wednesday on whether to continue to try to pass a comprehensive bill, or whether seek a temporary extension of transportation programs. There are only about a half dozen days left in the month in which Congress is scheduled to be in session, and it takes time to prepare an extension bill and pass it.

Boehner has already signaled that if there is to be an extension, it should be at least six months long. That would push off the question of how to shore up the trust fund - which is forecast to go broke sometime next year - until after the election. Highway and transit programs have limped along under a series of nine extensions since the last long-term transportation bill expired in 2009.

The Senate passed a bipartisan, $109 billion transportation bill earlier this year that would consolidate current programs, give states more flexibility on how they spend federal aid and streamline environmental regulations to speed up completion of highway projects. House Republicans also crafted a comprehensive bill, but were unable to pass the measure. There are deep divisions within the GOP about whether transportation programs should be forced to live entirely with the revenue generated by federal gas taxes and other user fees, even if it means cutting programs by more than a third.

After several tries, House leaders gave up trying to pass their bill, and instead passed what was effectively a shell bill designed to meet legislative requirements necessary to begin negotiations with the Senate.

Senate Democrats have blamed intransigence by House Republicans for the stalemate in negotiations. Reid has suggested that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is trying to delay the transportation bill in order to sabotage the economy.

Road-building and other industries dependent on highway programs have also identified House Republicans as the main obstacle to passage of a bill. A coalition of industry groups launched radio ads last week in the congressional districts of four House negotiators. "With billions of dollars at stake, and thousands of good paying jobs, it is time for Congress to take action," the ads said. "Will your congressman be part of the problem, or part of the transportation solution?"

GOP lawmakers have been working hard on the transportation bill, but they are insisting on reforms to prevent money from being misspent that Senate Democrats have so far resisted, Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to stress to Senator Reid and Senator Boxer that we want a bill," Boehner said, "but we are also going to insist on reforms of the process by which we spend the highway tax dollars that American motorists give us to rebuild America's highways."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to lawmakers Monday urging them not to give up on a comprehensive bill. To do so would mean "the economic growth potential of infrastructure investment would be squandered and job losses would likely continue in the coming months and years," wrote Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 3 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 3 years ago )
U.S. News
Ga. ethics legislation could end free tickets
General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger an important fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers - free football tickets.
6:26PM ( 3 years ago )
Abortion restrictions, tax changes loom in Ga.
Tax breaks for manufacturers and higher unemployment taxes for employers take effect with the new year in Georgia, but it remains to be seen whether the state's newest abortion restrictions will be enforced.
6:23PM ( 3 years ago )
Budget battle sends mixed signals on health care
Confused about the federal budget struggle? So are doctors, hospital administrators and other medical professionals who serve the 100 million Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
6:20PM ( 3 years ago )
Politics
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 6 days ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 1 week ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 1 week ago )