UPDATE: House and Senate Committee leaders Sept. 10 announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on comprehensive water resources infrastructure legislation. The leaders said in a release that a House vote on the legislation could come by the end of the week.

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA

While work on FY 2019 appropriations bills to keep most government operations running approaches the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline, aviation and maritime transportation reauthorization bills are slowly inching ahead as legislative days quickly dwindle before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill seems further along, with representatives, senators, and staff meeting to finalize a bill, despite the Senate not having passed its version to date. The House passed its plan June 6. Senate leaders, consumed with appropriations and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Cavanaugh, don’t appear willing to dedicate floor time to the bill before the election. This has led to an unusual attempt to develop a House-Senate compromise now instead of waiting for the Senate to pass its own bill.  If negotiators can reach an agreement, the bill, which authorizes funding for lock, dam, port and inland waterway construction projects, could come to the House floor as soon as the week of Sept. 10.

The reauthorization of federal aviation programs seems less likely to happen before the current extension expires Sept. 30. Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) announced at a hearing this week that House and Senate staff are pursing the same procedural course as their WRDA counterparts by beginning to negotiate prior to the Senate passing its version of the bill. The same dynamics exist where the House has passed a bill while the Senate has not. However, the issues that remain to be negotiated, including some non-aviation related trucking provisions, are reported to be further from resolution than the outstanding issues on the water resources bill, making another extension likely.

ARTBA will continue to work to ensure both bills contain increased authorization levels for capital construction programs.