Senators narrowly approved tonight 62 to 36 a procedural motion—which required 60 votes—to allow expedited consideration of legislation to reauthorize the federal highway and public transportation programs through FY 2021. An identical attempt failed 41 to 56, with all 45 Democrats (and Independents) opposing the maneuver in protest of not having had time to read the 1,000-plus page bill. Five Republicans and 15 Democrats/Independents changed their July 21 “No” votes to support today’s measure.
Senators switching from a July 21 “No” vote to a July 22 “Yes” vote to expedite consideration of the multi-year highway/transit bill were: Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); Bob Corker (R-Tenn.); Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.); Tim Scott (R-S.C.); Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); David Perdue (R-Ga.); Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.); Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.); Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.); Angus King (I-Maine); Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.); Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii); Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); Jon Tester (D-Mt.); and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The Senate will now proceed to consideration of The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned the Senate may be in session this weekend in order to complete action on the measure before the current highway/transit program extension expires July 31.
The DRIVE Act would increase core highway program investment from the current $40.3 billion level to $42.4 billion in FY 2016 and ramp up annual funding to $48.1 billion by FY 2021. The measure would provide $11.8 billion for the public transportation program in FY 2016—$1 billion more than the current level—and increase these investments to $13.3 billion by FY 2021.
While the DRIVE Act would authorize six years of highway and public transportation spending, the measure only provides enough new Highway Trust Fund revenue to guarantee the first three years of investments. The measure would generate $47.1 billion in new trust fund revenue from increasing tax compliance, extending an aviation security fee, indexing customs user fees, changing the dividend rate paid by the Federal Reserve to its member banks, and several other non-transportation tax code changes. Of the $47.1 billion in new revenue, $36.2 billion would be allocated to the fund’s Highway Account and $11 billion would go to its Mass Transit Account.
Thanks go out to the many ARTBA members and state contractor affiliates that reached out to their senators today to urge them to support the Senate beginning consideration of the six-year highway/transit bill.
While the Senate moving forward with a six-year surface transportation program reauthorization proposal is a positive development, the hard work lies ahead. A number of senators vying for the Republican Presidential nomination have pledged to try to attach unrelated issues to the measure and senators of both parties continue to have concerns with the bill’s revenue and policy provision. We will continue to keep you posted on developments and please remain prepared to continue pushing your senators to work toward completion of this important legislation.