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AASHTO Journal

House Puts Off Debate on Transportation Provisions until Week After Next
The House of Representatives began debating Wednesday a surface transportation and energy package, which was split into three parts after 300 amendments were filed with the House Rules Committee. Floor debate and amendments this week were limited to the energy provisions; work on the highway/transit and revenue sections was postponed until the week of Feb. 27 after a delay was announced Wednesday by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

During a five-hour-long House Rules Committee meeting Tuesday evening, the panel decided to move the massive bill ahead as three separate parts and spread out debate over two weeks. In addition to the transportation section, the other pieces raise revenue to pay for certain transportation projects and authorize expanded oil and gas drilling.

"Given the volume of amendments and the need for a full, fair, open, and transparent process, we may not finish energy/infrastructure this week," Boehner told his party caucus Wednesday, The Hill reported. "If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that's perfectly fine with me. It's more important that we do it right than that we do it fast."

Media reports also indicated that the postponement was prompted by leadership's decision to spend one of the transportation offsets related to federal employee pension contributions on a separate measure to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. That bill cleared the House and Senate today and is on its way to the president. The House will now need to come up with additional revenue raisers to fund the five-year, $260 billion transportation reauthorization, which is designed to maintain current funding levels until 2016.

The Rules Committee will resume its meeting after the Presidents Day weeklong recess to review amendments to the transportation provision and adopt a rule structuring the floor debate.

A full list of submitted amendments is available under the "Amendments" tab at bit.ly/HRC733. These include a manager's amendment offered by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Florida, making technical corrections and modifying various provisions.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee filed Monday its 983-page report on the transportation provisions (House Report 112-397). And the Congressional Budget Office released Monday its cost estimate for the consolidated House transportation and energy package (based on the Rules Committee Print released Feb. 8).

The Senate is also in the midst of considering a surface transportation reauthorization measure, and the Congressional Research Service published a report analyzing both chambers' bills. (see related story)

2/17/2012
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.