Earlier this week, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) intended to keep the government open through December 11, 2015. Currently the funding to keep the government open will cease at midnight on September 30, 2015. Several of the individual Appropriations bills have passed the House of Representatives, however, Senate Democrats have called for renewed negotiations on a broad budget agreement in order to adjust the budget caps set by the Budget Control Act (BCA) which mandate across-the-board sequestration cuts. The previous budget agreement, the Bipartisan Budget Act authored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), adjusted the federal budget caps to prevent the automatic sequestration process, set forward in the Budget Control Act, from being implemented. That agreement prevented sequestration for FY 2014 and FY 2015. But that agreement does not apply to FY 2016, and therefore a new agreement would be needed to avoid sequestration for the coming fiscal year. As a result, Senate Democrats have blocked further consideration of any Appropriations bills until such time as a further budget deal can be reached.
On Thursday (9/24), following a failed vote to consider a version of the Continuing Resolution that contained language preventing funds for Planned Parenthood, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took procedural steps to hold a vote on a revised version of the CR on Monday, Sept. 28. This version would also fund the Federal Government through December 11, 2015, but would not include language blocking funding for Planned Parenthood, or other language such as an extension of the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Neither version includes language providing for an extension of the current deadline for implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) which commuter and freight railroads are required to implement by the end of this year.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote on the CR on Monday, and would likely move to pass the measure shortly thereafter. Action in the House was still unclear as this Legislative Alert was being completed. However, should the House choose to make further amendments to the Senate measure, further action would be required in the Senate jeopardizing completion of the CR before the expiration of the Fiscal Year and leading to a shutdown of the Federal Government.
Further details will be included in forthcoming Legislative Alerts as they emerge.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Announces Resignation
On Friday morning in a House Republican Conference meeting, Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH) announced that he will be stepping down from his position as Speaker of the House and Representative for Ohio’s 8th district effective October 30, 2015. In a written statement issued by his office, Speaker Boehner noted, “Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District. God bless this great country that has given me - the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati - the chance to serve.” His resignation will lead to changes is House leadership positions that will be determined at a later date, once his successor is elected. Boehner assumed his position on January 5, 2011 making him the 12th longest serving Speaker of the House.
GAO Report: Updated Guidance and Expanded Federal Authority Could Facilitate Bus Procurement
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on Bus Procurement recommending that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) update its Best Practices Procurement Manual, assess its other related guidance, and update that guidance as needed. GAO also recommends FTA work with the Government Services Administration (GSA) to develop a legislative proposal to authorize transit agencies that receive relevant FTA grants to access GSA sources of supply for the purchase of transit buses. FTA and GSA agreed with these recommendations. To access the full report, please visit this link.
Bi-Partisan Letters Support Extension of PTC Deadline
Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) are currently circulating a letter in the House of Representatives urging swift action on extending the PTC implementation deadline beyond December 31, 2015. A similar letter is also being circulated in the Senate by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). Commuter Rail operators are encouraged to call on their delegations to ask that they cosign the Quigley-Newhouse and Tester-Moran letters.