On Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 72-26, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR; H.R. 5325) that funds federal government programs through December 9 at Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 levels. On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 342-85. The President is expected to sign the bill before the new FY 2017 begins this weekend on October 1.
Passage of the bill had been slowed in recent weeks over disagreements about the inclusion of Zika Virus assistance, and the question of whether that assistance could be used by Planned Parenthood, and the inclusion of aid for Louisiana flood victims, and assistance for Flint, Michigan water quality improvements. As approved, the measure includes funding for the Zika Virus and Louisiana flood relief.
While the CR will keep federal government programs running through December 9, Congress still must approve legislation to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2017. APTA will continue to advocate for Congress to approve a full-year DOT appropriations bill at FAST Act funding levels before the end of the calendar year, when the 114th Congress adjourns.
House Passes Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5943, the Transit Security Grant Program (TGSP) Flexibility Act by voice vote. Under current law, these grants cannot be used for operating purposes. This bill would allow agencies to cover “backfill” costs for employees participating in security training, extend the availability of TSGP grants up to 55 months for certain capital projects, and mandate GAO reviews of the TSGP. This bill will now go to the Senate for consideration, however, it is uncertain that this bill will be able to pass both chambers of Congress and signed into law during the remainder of the 114th Congress. This would mean it would have to be reintroduced in the 115th Congress after January 2, 2017.
Separate Bill Introduced in Senate
Additionally, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation introduced S. 3379, the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act. The legislation aims to evaluate the most efficient methods and manner to allocate limited federal resources to bolster the security of our transportation systems. Cosponsors include Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).