Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., has introduced a bill to open water transportation between U.S. ports to some foreign-flag competition.
The measure, anticipated for more than a year and submitted just hours before Congress left for a monthlong recess, would overhaul the Jones Act of 1920.It is virtually identical to a bill introduced earlier this year by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Supporters of the Senate bill hope the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the issue in September, but no action beyond the hearing stage is anticipated.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard testimony on the issue in June and no further public airing of the issue is expected in the House this year.
In its rush to leave town for the Republican and Democratic political conventions, the House easily approved a bill designed to tighten airport security against terrorist or criminal acts.
However, some House members criticized the measure as high on the rhetoric scale and low on delivering increased security. Negotiations between the House, Senate and White House over the anti-terrorism act broke down late in the week and the Senate did not formally debate the bill.
After a flurry of late-night talks ended without compromise, Senate leadership fell back on an earlier plan to consider the aviation security changes when Congress returns in September. The security proposals will be offered as amendments to a bill that would reform the Federal Aviation Administration and reauthorize the Airport Improvement Program.
Commerce Committee staff completed technical work on the FAA bill and a pipeline safety bill the last week of July and sent them to the floor to be added to the crowded September calendar.
In addition to those bills, the Senate still faces a bill giving Amtrak a further lease on life and a funding bill for maritime programs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee sent to the Senate a fiscal 1997 plan to give the Federal Maritime Commission $14.45 million next year, along with funding of $66.6 million for Maritime Administration operations.
The panel approved $40.9 million for Marad's Title XI shipbuilding loan guarantee program - the level requested by the administration.
No money was earmarked for the new vessel operating subsidy program, but an Appropriations Committee staffer said if the Senate passed the program guidelines, money would be made available in a later round.
House and Senate conferees must also iron out differences between two versions of 1997 spending for other transportation programs.