Senate committee plans to unveil a six-year highway bill

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 5/13/2015

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced Wednesday that they plan to release and begin debating a six-year highway bill in June. In the interim, Congress is on track to pass a short-term extension of current programs that would last long enough to debate the multiyear bill.

“We are quickly approaching a critical deadline for federal investment in our nation’s roads and bridges,” EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a joint statement on Wednesday, May 13.

When their roles were reversed in the previous Congress, Inhofe and Boxer got a two-year highway bill known as MAP-21 through the process and signed into law. They say a long-term bill would send a strong signal that transportation and infrastructure are the backbone of the American economy.

Congress faces a deadline of May 31 to pass a short-term extension and buy time to debate a six-year bill.

“While Congress continues to debate the funding mechanisms, we believe it is in the best interest that this committee moves forward with consideration of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill,” Inhofe and Boxer stated.

“This is why we are announcing that the EPW committee intends to mark up a six-year, bipartisan reauthorization bill in June. We can no longer wait on Congress. We look forward to finalizing negotiations with the big four, to include Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), and working with our members on a consensus bill in the tradition of this committee in the next few weeks.”

EPW’s jurisdiction is with authoring the highway provisions and the overall framework of a bill. Other committees, such as Senate Commerce, would be tasked with adding motor carrier safety components and other provisions to the bill. Senate Finance would deal with funding.

Earlier this year, the White House offered up its own six-year highway bill, but Congress is not obligated to pass it. More likely, Senate committees will review parts of the bill and change or substitute their own language.

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