Senators passed the appropriations package 69-30 after rejecting two transportation-related amendments. An attempt by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, to reallocate 10% of the amounts appropriated for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure from transportation enhancement activities to the highway bridge program was rejected 60-38. Senators voted 57-41 to turn down an amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, to eliminate funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Program.
The $182 billion appropriations bill, HR 2112, contains FY 2012 spending from three subcommittees: transportation and housing; commerce, justice, and science; and agriculture, food, and drugs.
Congress has yet to pass any of the dozen regular appropriations bill for the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1. A continuing resolution keeping government agencies operating at last year's funding levels, minus a small reduction, is in effect until Nov. 18.
The transportation spending component approved by the Senate would maintain highway and transit funding at current levels -- a contrast to a measure approved by the House transportation appropriations subcommittee that would reduce funding 34%. The full House Appropriations Committee has not considered that bill. This is among the numerous issues the conference committee must resolve.
The Senate version includes a $41.1 billion FY 2012 obligation limitation for highway projects and $8.3 billion for transit from the Highway Trust Fund. Additional funding is provided by the General Fund. Both amounts continue FY 2011 levels. The House version (only approved at the subcommittee level) includes $27 billion for highways and $5.2 billion for transit.
Democrats won a rare victory Thursday in the House of Representatives when the chamber approved a motion from Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Washington state and ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, to instruct conferees. The 265-160 vote approved instructions requiring House conferees to insist on the highest level of funding for the Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief Program and the Community Oriented Policing Services program.
A provision in the Senate's transportation appropriations bill would lift a cap on payments to states for emergency repair of highways. Vermont is among the states that would benefit; it is saddled with $600 million in road repair costs from Tropical Storm Irene.
The House appointed the following conferees: Reps. Rogers (KY), Young (FL), Lewis (CA), Wolf, Kingston, Latham, Aderholt, Emerson, Culberson, Carter, Bonner, LaTourette, Dicks, DeLauro, Olver, Pastor (AZ), Price (NC), Farr, Fattah, and Schiff. The Senate's conferees are Sens. Kohl, Harkin, Feinstein, Johnson (SD), Nelson (NE), Pryor, Brown (OH), Inouye, Murray, Mikulski, Blunt, Cochran, McConnell, Collins, Moran, Hoeven, Hutchison, and Shelby.