Today (August 1), the Senate passed H.R. 6147, which was amended to include four fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills including the Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act, 2019 (S. 3023), by a roll call vote of 92-6.

The Senate THUD Appropriations bill, like the 2018 THUD Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-141, Division L), provides significant additional funding for public transportation, above the levels authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) (P.L. 114-94). The bill provides $16.1 billion for public transportation and intercity passenger rail, including $13.6 billion for public transportation and $2.5 billion for intercity passenger rail grants. These total funding levels are slightly less than the historic FY 2018 funding levels but $1.3 billion more than authorized by the FAST Act for FY 2019.

For more information on the Senate THUD Appropriations bill funding levels, please see our June 8 Legislative Update. For more information on the House THUD Appropriations bill, please see our May 24 Legislative Update.

During floor consideration of H.R. 6147, the following THUD-related amendments were adopted:

  • Amendment #3414 (Offered by Senators Udall (D-N.M.), Roberts (R-Kan.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Moran (R-Kan.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Gardner (R-Colo.))—the amendment expresses the sense of Congress related to the importance of long-distance passenger rail routes. The vote was 95-4.
  • Amendment #3422 (Offered by Senators Durbin (D-Ill.) and Wicker (R-Miss.))—the amendment requires the Amtrak Inspector General to update a report on the impact of Amtrak’s on-time performance. The vote was 99-0.

The following amendments were adopted as part of a manager’s amendment, which passed by voice vote:

  • Amendment #3428 (Offered by Senator Heller (R-Nev.))—the amendment requires a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report on engagement with local interests relating to intelligent transportation systems technologies and smart cities solutions.
  • Amendment #3608 (Offered by Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Reed (D-R.I.))—the amendment prohibits the use of funds to implement new policies detailed in the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program “Dear Colleague” letter distributed by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on June 29, 2018. For more information regarding this amendment, please see the section below.
  • Amendment #3665 (Offered by Senators Moran (R-Kan.), Udall (D-N.M.), Roberts (R-Kan.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Gardner (R-Colo.), and Bennet (D-Colo.))—the amendment ensures continued passenger rail operations on long-distance routes.
  • Amendment #3666 (as perfected by #3684) (Offered by Senators Coons (D-Del.) and Carper (D-Del.))—the amendment extends, by one year, the deadline for expenditure of funds awarded in 2012 and 2013 under the TIGER program.
  • Amendment #3670 (as amended) (Offered by Senator Cornyn (R-Texas))—the amendment prohibits funds made available to FTA from being used to procure rolling stock from manufacturers supported by foreign governments that are identified under certain trade laws (i.e., China). For more information regarding this amendment, please see the section below.
  • Amendment #3677 (Offered by Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.))—the amendment requires Amtrak to grant a discount to members of the public benefit corporation Veterans Advantage.

FTA’s CIG Dear Colleague Letter

On June 29, 2018, FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams sent a Dear Colleague letter to public transit agencies highlighting the Trump Administration’s policies regarding the CIG program. FTA also made changes to the CIG Risk Assessment process (which were posted to the FTA website). The Administration’s Dear Colleague letter emphasized the discretionary nature of FTA’s decision-making regarding CIG projects; established geographic diversity as a factor in FTA funding allocation decisions; considered DOT loans “in the context of” all federal funding sources requested by the project sponsor, and not separate from the Federal funding sources; and included other Administration policy objectives.

Senator Reed’s amendment prohibits the use of FTA funds to implement or further the new policies detailed in FTA’s June 29 CIG Dear Colleague letter. APTA has expressed serious concerns about the CIG policies outlined in the June 29 Dear Colleague letter, as well as the changes to the risk assessment process. The Reed amendment was adopted by voice vote as part of the manager’s amendment. For APTA’s Summary of FTA’s June 29 CIG Dear Colleague, please click here.

Rail and Bus Manufacturers Supported by China

The Cornyn amendment, as adopted, prohibits certain federal public transit funding provided in FY 2019 from being used to procure rolling stock from an entity that is incorporated in or has manufacturing facilities in the United States and “receives support” from the government of China. The Cornyn amendment applies to procurements after the date of enactment under the following programs: Urbanized Area Formula grants (§ 5307), Rural Area Formula grants (§ 5311), State of Good Repair grants (§ 5337), and Bus and Bus Facilities grants (§ 5339). It does not apply to Capital Investment Grants (§ 5309). In addition, the Cornyn amendment does not apply to existing contracts or contract options for rolling stock. The section shall be applied in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements. The Cornyn amendment was adopted by voice vote as part of the manager’s amendment.

The Cornyn amendment is similar to section 165 of H.R. 6072, the House THUD Appropriations bill. Section 165 is described in the July 17, 2018 APTA White Paper on Pending Trade and International Investment Issues.

National Defense Authorization Act Study

In addition to the legislative efforts regarding rail manufacturing in the THUD bills, today (August 1), the Senate passed the Conference Report on H.R. 5515, the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” (NDAA), by a vote of 87-10, clearing the bill for the President. The final bill includes a study on state-owned or -controlled rail manufacturing. The President is expected to sign the bill.

Specifically, section 1719(c) of the Conference Report requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to study:

  • national security risks, if any, related to investments in the United States by state owned or state-controlled entities in the manufacture or assembly of rolling stock or other assets for use in freight rail, public transportation rail systems, or intercity passenger rail systems; and
  • how the number and types of such investments could affect any such risks.

The July 17, 2018 APTA White Paper on Pending Trade and International Investment Issues describes the initial Senate provision for this study. Section 1719 of the Conference Report is similar to the original Senate provision but limits the study to rail manufacturing.​​

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