The New Speaker's First Test: The Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Congress began work this week on a 6-year transportation bill, the first since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. Overseeing the process of adding amendments to the bill will be new House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his first significant test of leadership.

2 minute read

November 4, 2015, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

"Paul D. Ryan pledged in his bid for speaker to change the way the House does legislative business by pursuing conservative principles, more actively empowering committee chairmen and facilitating fuller debate on bills on the chamber floor," write Emma Dumain and Lindsey McPherson. "The Wisconsin Republican will get his first test in delivering on that pledge in his first full week on the job."

On Monday, "the House Rules Committee approved debate guidelines for the underlying highway and transit bill and 29 related amendments (including Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-Wis.) controversial truck weight proposal," writes Lauren Gardner for Politico Morning Transportation.

Also known as the 'bigger or heavier trucks' bill, Ribble's Safe, Flexible, and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act (pdf) is vigorously opposed by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT).

One rules change is that rather than amending the STRR Act (H.R.3763) that had passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 22, "the House is going to use H.R. 22 (the Senate's DRIVE Act) to move its version of the transportation bill to the floor," explained Brad Roseberry of CABT in an email.

"Also known as the 'speaker’s committee,' the Rules panel will look to Ryan for guidance on which amendments will be allowed," write Dumain and McPherson. "Ryan will have to decide just how far he wants to go in living up to his pledge to open up the amendment process and let the House 'work its will.'"

These members will surely look to Ryan to put his imprimatur of fiscal discipline on this highway bill iteration, and question his leadership if they think he is letting Congress spend beyond its means.

Congress is up against a Nov. 20 deadline to pass the bill if it doesn't want to pass a 36th transportation spending extension.

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