House Moves Highway Bill to Conference

Just when all hope seemed lost for enactment of a comprehensive reauthorization of surface transportation programs, the House on April 18 took an unorthodox but effective step toward moving a bill through the legislative process.

By a vote of 293-127, the House passed another “extension” of surface transportation programs (known as SAFETEA-LU), with the understanding that the Senate would bring up the measure, replace it with their two-year reauthorization bill, and request a conference committee to hammer out a final House-Senate bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already indicated that he will appoint conferees as soon as Senate rules allow.

While a step in the right direction, a final House-Senate bill still remains an elusive goal. The Senate-approved MAP-21, a two-year authorization bill, and the five-year measure approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, take different approaches to numerous policy and funding issues. The hard work remains for House and Senate leaders to negotiate a final product that can be approved in both chambers and is acceptable to the President.

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