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The current extension of the federal surface transportation bill, its eighth, is set to expire at the end of March. After years of delay, Congress is now moving very quickly on a new transportation bill. Both the House of Representatives and Senate will soon bring their respective versions of the bill to a floor vote. After months of hints and outlines from both chambers, a flurry of recent activity is quickly bringing details of both bills into focus.
The reauthorization bill in the Senate (S. 1813) is spearheaded by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). Boxer and Inhofe released their two-year bill back in November after extensive closed-door negotiations. Already a bipartisan compromise, the bill was quickly approved by EPW with a unanimous vote. The bill then stalled in other committees, only regaining momentum now. The Banking Committee, responsible for the public transportation section of the bill, passed their portion on February 2 by a unanimous vote. In a first, the bill will allow the use of some federal dollars to cover transit operating expenses. The Senate Finance Committee passed their portion on February 7, the final hurdle before sending the bill to the full Senate. The committee’s bill, which determined how the larger bill will pay for $10.5 billion of the $13 billion funding gap caused by inadequate revenues from the federal gas tax, was approved by a 17-6 vote , with four Republicans supporting.