Blog: Head-Spinning Couple of Weeks in Washington Yields a Golden Opportunity for America
By Janet Kavinoky
It’s been a crazy two weeks of votes in the House and the Senate, but there has been positive, forward progress toward a six-year transportation bill. It’s been like an advanced course in Congress, with cloture votes, second degree amendments, perfecting amendments, Rule 14s and ‘trees’ being stuffed.
But in the end, the news is great!
The Senate—thanks to the letters and calls from American consumers and businesses—passed a six year bill! Three years are paid for with a combination of offsets that are not transportation related (less than ideal) but there are good policy provisions (creation of a new dedicated program for freight infrastructure, more improvements to the environmental and permitting processes, and more) and six years of authorizations, meaning that the funding levels have been set for 2016-2022 and represent 5-7 percent increases in funding year over year. This is truly a huge step forward.
After initially proposing a five month extension through December, the House decided to commit to finishing a transportation bill by October 29th. We think this is partially attributable to the pressure brought to bear by state and local chambers, businesses and consumer groups telling congress, “No more delays, no more excuses, no more short-term bills!”
So what now? Well, despite these recent victories, a huge need for advocacy and Congressional action remains.
With the Senate’s six year bill passed, it’s time for the House to act. In order to ensure we don’t have any more short-term extensions, the House will need to come back in September with the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) and Ways and Means (W&M) Committees ready to mark up the policy and revenue portions of their six-year bill immediately. Then leadership will need to get the House bill on the floor ASAP so that the House and Senate have time to reconcile differences in a conference and issue a report by the end of October. Whew. Like I said, still much to do.
It is absolutely critical that during August recess – which lasts through labor day and has many members back in their home districts – members of the House T&I and W&M committees hear a very simple but loud message from as many individual people, businesses, and organizations as possible: No more delays, no more excuses: get back to Washington and pass a transportation bill out of the House in September.
If you need a sample letter to send to Congress, blog post, op ed or proposed event template, FasterBetterSafer.org has those. ATM Coalition members are working with other associations to organize attendance at town hall meetings in Congressional districts – here is a list of town halls schedule to date if you want to show up and voice your support for a long-term bill.
All members of the U.S. House or representative need to hear from: those who have supported getting a process going need constituents to thank them for their leadership and urge them to keep up the fight. For members that haven’t yet been supportive, they need to hear about the transportation tremendous needs in their communities. Opponents of the Highway Trust Fund are already out there with mailers urging Congress to back off on a long-term bill.
This is it – it’s go time. Join us in making sure the House does not put on the brakes. Go Congress go! Go Congress go!