In the face of insistence by leaders in the House of Representatives to extend soon-to-expire federal highway programs by only three months, some senators are beginning to move away from plans for an 18-month extension.
And the highway programs could be tied to plans to extend the Federal Aviation Administration by three months as well. Both sets of transport programs are now set to expire Sept. 30, the end of the government’s current fiscal year.
“There’s some movement, I think, toward a short-term extension” in the Senate, said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. Thune is not only part of the Senate Republican leadership team as chief deputy whip but also ranking minority member on the surface transportation panel of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who is assistant majority leader, said “there is a debate going on about short and long” for extending highway spending programs.
Until recently, senators had been coalescing around a plan to extend highway programs by 18 months, as requested by President Obama, which would give the new administration more time to develop its own transportation plans and get Congress past the 2010 election cycle before it crafts a new multi-year spending bill.
But Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., has offered a six-year surface transport bill in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that he chairs and wants no more than a three-month extension of current programs so that Congress can more quickly take up his proposal. House Democratic leaders backed his short-term extension plans.
Meanwhile, Oberstar is also seeking a three-month FAA extension. Thune, who has favored an 18-month extension of the 2005 highway bill, told Journal of Commerce Sept. 22 that “it looks like, if there’s both an FAA and a highway bill reauthorization extension that it could end up being a short-term extension.”
Thune also said “I suspect that they’ll both move kind of on a parallel track. So, if the FAA is a three-month, then my guess is that the highway bill will be a three-month, too.”
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