House approval late December 11 of a $1.1 trillion, year-end funding package moves Congress one step closer to finalizing most federal agency and program spending levels for the remainder of FY 2015 (the measure only funds the Department of Homeland Security through February). The House approved the plan 219 to 206 with 57 Democrats joining 162 Republicans to support the measure. House GOP leaders and President Obama worked with members of their respective parties to cobble together enough votes to overcome objections to a number of non-transportation policy and funding provisions in the bill (e.g., many Republicans wanted the measure to respond to Obama’s immigration action and many Democrats objected to the legislation loosening restrictions on the banking industry).
A similar dynamic is expected to play out as President Obama and Senate leaders now work to secure the necessary votes for the measure in the upper chamber. While the original deadline for action on a funding package was December 11, the House and Senate approved a two-day extension of federal funding (at current levels) to provide the Senate time to act on the legislation. As of print time, the Senate was expected to approve the bill on December 12 or 13, however, opponents were still actively working to block passage.
For the transportation programs, the House-passed FY 2015 funding proposal would retain highway and core transit state and local grants at the FY 2014 levels ($40.3 billion for highways and $8.6 billion for transit). Transit capital grants would be increased by $177 million to $2.1 billion. The bill also would keep airport capital funding at $3.35 billion and Amtrak funding at $1.39 billion. The measure would cut funding for the Obama Administration’s multimodal TIGER Grant Program from $600 million in FY 2014 to $500 million. To achieve the highway and transit funding levels included in this bill, the measure assumes subsequent action by Congress as the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) cannot support highway and transit spending beyond May 31, 2015.