Oberstar to Back 3-Month Delay in Transport Bill As Soon As Next Week

House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is readying a proposal to extend current infrastructure law by three months -- 15 months less than the delay preferred by the White House -- and could introduce the legislation as soon as next week, his office said today.

0131mnfederal_dd_graphic_oberstar.jpgHouse transport committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) (Photo: Capitol Chatter)
"It's obvious that we're running out of September," Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard told Streetsblog Capitol Hill, noting that lawmakers have become caught up by legislative battles over health care and climate change.

"We're at a point where a decision has to be made: it's either to extend for a short time or have the
whole system collapse," Berard added. "Under those circumstances of two bad choices," Oberstar is prepared to back a short-term extension rather than letting the 2005 federal transport bill expire at the end of the month.

A three-month delay, endorsed last week by Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) would punt decision-making on transportation reform until just after New Year's. Even then, revenue-raisers on the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee are still likely to face considerable obstacles in paying for Oberstar's six-year, $500 billion legislation.

Berard acknowledged that the extension would have to be negotiated with House leaders as well as the White House and the Senate, both of which have already come out in favor of an 18-month delay. "We may, as early as next week, introduce a bill and start the process," he said.

That bill would be a "clean" extension," in Capitol parlance -- omitting data collection money and other small-scale reforms that the Obama administration has proposed.