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AASHTO Journal

Obama Signs Debt Deal into Law; <br>Long-Term Impact on Transportation Unclear
Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law a measure Tuesday raising the nation's debt ceiling, only hours before the U.S. Treasury Department was set to run out of money to continue paying America's financial obligations. The legislation sets up a special 12-member joint committee of Congress that will be tasked with recommending by Thanksgiving $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, leaving the fate of future federal transportation funding uncertain.

The Senate passed the debt-limit package (S 365, Public Law 112-25, the Budget Control Act of 2011) 74-26 shortly after noon Tuesday. The House of Representatives had voted 269-161 to approve the bill Monday. It is unclear how the legislation will affect surface transportation programs. 

The debt-celing deal sets up future cuts in federal appropriations, mostly targeting discretionary spending. The new joint congressional committee will be created with members from both parties. That committee will be charged with identifying additional federal spending reductions.

Under the bill signed Tuesday by Obama, existing House and Senate committees have until Oct. 14 to make recommendations to the bipartisan 12-member special panel. That select joint committee -- whose members have yet to be chosen -- must produce legislation by Nov. 23 (the day before Thanksgiving) that would trim the nation's $14 trillion deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade. The House and Senate are required to vote on the panel's recommendations by the end of this year or automatic cuts to most government programs will automatically take place in 2013.

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