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Transportation Reauthorization Now a Done Deal
The name of the 1301-page, $305 billion, 5-year bill is the "Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act" or the "FAST Act" [PDF]. POLITICO reporters Lauren Gardner and Heather Caygle lay out where the plan goes from here in Wednesday's Morning Transportation.
"With a conference deal in hand, House lawmakers are slated to meet this afternoon to set up floor debate on the $305 billion, five-year transportation plan negotiators laid out on Tuesday," write Garner and Caygle. "The House Rules Committee will gavel in at 3 p.m. to prepare the proposal for final signoff in the lower chamber."
Some of the details:
- NEPA: Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the only House Democrat to decline signing the conference agreement, said his decision was based on the deal's language to streamline the environmental permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act. "I didn't want to concede that it was OK to begin to dismantle NEPA," he told POLITICO. "That streamlining idea that came from the Democrats in the Senate is not good."
- Revives the Export-Import Bank.
- Amtrak: Increases the total amount Amtrak can be forced to pay accident victims and retroactively applies the change to include this year’s deadly Philadelphia derailment.
- Funding or "pay-fors":
Gardner and Caygle write that "remorse" was felt on some of the gimmicks (my term) used, e.g., "a plan to dig into the Federal Reserve's pockets to the tune of billions of dollars and a separate idea to funnel revenue from a customs fee levied on airline and cruise passengers to the highway fund.”
"The committee settled primarily on a House plan to use money that the Federal Reserve Bank uses as a cushion against losses and a Senate proposal to reduce the amount of interest the Federal Reserve pays to banks," writes The Washington Post's Ashley Halsey III
POLITICO's "Elana Schor notes that the deal sets a $6.2 billion limit on sales of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, rather than the previous $9 billion cap laid out in earlier versions of the plan," add Gardner and Caygle.
As for the previously reported differences on which transit programs to fund, a press release from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) indicates that he prevailed in saving the 5340 High Density Transit Program for seven northeast states.
"The bill is a landmark moment for a Congress that is reviled by many Americans as a do-nothing body, most notable for the bitter fighting between its most extreme elements," writes Halsey III. "But even in this week’s success, there is failure. Once again, the lawmakers have not found transportation’s holy grail, a renewable source of cash to fund the nation’s needs."
"Because transportation policy expires on Friday, lawmakers will probably still need to move another short-term patch to give themselves enough time for a signing ceremony with Obama administration officials," add Gardner and Caygle.