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This week, the House began and Senate continued consideration of their respective Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bills. Both bills fully fund the transit formula programs and the federal-aid highway program, at the MAP-21 authorized levels. The bills as passed out of Committee are $10 billion apart, with a $3.3 billion gap in DOT appropriations. For transportation, the Senate bill provides higher funding for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Investment Grants, WMATA Grants, Amtrak, and TIGER Grants. For details on the differences between the two bills, please see APTA’s Legislative Alert of June 28, 2013.
On Thursday, the Senate failed to invoke cloture (limit debate) on its THUD appropriations bill. Of the amendments filed in the Congressional Record, several were transportation related but few had been formally offered. The bill remains pending business on the Senate calendar, but will likely not see any further consideration until after the August Congressional recess.
The House of Representatives also began consideration of its FY 2014 THUD appropriations bill this week as well, but ended up pulling the bill from the floor mid-week. It had appeared that there were not sufficient votes to pass the bill. The House may attempt to pass the bill after the August Congressional recess, but in a press statement, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers expressed his frustrations over the situation:
“I am extremely disappointed with the decision to pull the bill from the House calendar today. The prospects for passing this bill in September are bleak at best, given the vote count on passage that was apparent this afternoon. With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago. Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end. And, it is also clear that the higher funding levels advocated by the Senate are also simply not achievable in this Congress.
A handful of amendments proposed to the House bill would affect public transportation and several pending amendments would still be in order should the House of Representatives resume consideration of the THUD bill later this year. However, it is becoming less likely that that will happen, as Speaker John Boehner has already indicated that Congress should prepare for a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) when they return in September.
APTA Weighs-In on House THUD Passenger Rail Appropriations
Early in the week, APTA sent a letter to the House Appropriations THUD Subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ed Pastor (D-AZ), expressing concern about the current prohibition of the use of funds for individual high-speed rail projects, and for specific actions by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) regarding such projects. You can read both letters by visiting the APTA Government Affairs page.