House Passes Transportation Bill
The United States House of Representatives approved a transportation bill yesterday that draws a blueprint for spending on roads, bridges, and mass transit for six years but provides funding for only three of those years.
The bill passed in the House 363 to 64.
The bill would also revive the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has been out of commission since July 1 due to the failure of Congress to renew its mandate when it expired.
The House bill authorized $325 billion in spending during the six-year period, but only provides that level of funding for the first three years. A Senate version of the bill, which passed last week, authorized $342 billion over six years, but without funding at that level.
The Obama administration has criticized the measures for maintaining funding at current levels, which, according to a White House statement, “are widely acknowledged to be below the level needed to maintain this country’s surface transportation infrastructure, let alone improve it.”
The National Association of Manufacturers praised the House vote, saying it “paves the way for modernizing America’s aging infrastructure, reauthorizing a critical trade resource, and catching up to compete with the rest of the world.”
“While Congress spent years delaying and debating this issue, the United States fell behind on our infrastructure obligations as our foreign competitors invested in theirs,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers’ success depends on the ability to transport goods and products to our consumers and reach new markets, so it’s inexcusable that Congress wasted so much time and gave other countries a competitive advantage. This long-term highway bill is an important and overdue step forward to ending the counterproductive cycle of stop-gap renewals and to building our future again.”
Labor interests also hailed the vote but with caveats. “The funding levels do not meet our country’s mounting transportation challenges,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “We hope that as the House and Senate work together in Conference, more revenues will be found to significantly boost transit, highway and bridge investments. We will also be seeking a final compromise bill that rejects or modifies certain provisions in the House and Senate version of this legislation.”
Timmons also urged Congress to get work to reauthorize EXIM. “Manufacturers need every competitive tool to grow and create jobs; the EXIM Bank is one of those tools and has yet again earned bipartisan support in Congress,” he said. “As the bill goes to conference, we urge lawmakers to keep EXIM reauthorization as part of the final language. It is time to stop these self-inflicted wounds and get solutions to the president’s desk.”
A House and Senate conference committee will now have to negotiate over details and reconcile the language of their respective bills.