By Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) stalled this week a bipartisan effort to secure Senate passage of legislation that would fund all programs administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY 2016—which began Oct. 1. The transportation programs—like all other federal discretionary programs—are currently operating under a “continuing resolution” that is keeping federal funds flowing at the FY 2015 levels through Dec. 11.
While Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Jack Reed (R-R.I.) had secured floor time for the measure earlier in the week, Paul demanded Nov. 19 a vote on amendment barring federal assistance to refugees. Paul also pledged to object to any amendments or procedural motions relating to the DOT funding bill until his proposal was granted a vote. Paul is one of the candidates competing in the GOP presidential primary process.
The House passed its version of the FY 2016 transportation funding bill earlier this summer. As a result of the Senate bill being blocked, transportation investment decisions will likely be included in a government-wide funding bill that is expected to be approved later this year. It is important to recall that while multi-year surface transportation program reauthorization bills set annual highway and public transportation investment levels, the appropriations process provides states the authority to actually spend those funds. Consequently, both multi-year authorizations and annual appropriations bills are essential in delivering federal transportation investment to the states.