‘A Dozen or So’ Senators Delay Passage of Oberstar’s Highway Funding Fix

A contentious congressional dispute over $932 million in transportation funding remains unresolved this week after the Senate approved a one-month extension of federal aviation law rather than a three-month version of the bill that included a fix to the provision at issue.

harry_reid_rotunda2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (Photo: LV City Life)
House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) had added language to the three-month aviation measure redistributing the $932 million based on existing highway funding formulas -- rather than giving 58 percent of the money to four states by extending project earmarks, as would occur under the jobs bill that President Obama signed 10 days ago.

Oberstar's proposed fix also would amend language in that jobs bill that disproportionately under-funded seven federal transportation programs, including Safe Routes to School, Metropolitan Planning, and Recreational Trails.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had vowed to the House chairman that upper chamber would approve his fix as part of a future jobs bill, but objections from several senators prevented it from hitching a ride on the aviation bill.

CQ identified one of the objecting senators in its story on the issue (sub. req'd.):

An aide to Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., one of the senators who whose state stands to lose under the Oberstar formulation, said he was one of "a dozen or so" senators who had concerns.

"The last 11 FAA bills we've passed were clean, and a number of members objected to adding a controversial highway change to that bill," the aide said. "It's an issue that needs to be addressed, but this FAA [bill] simply wasn't the place."

Republicans preferred Oberstar's solution, in part because their states by and large would do better under his plan.

The sizable contingent of lawmakers backing Oberstar's changes will get their next shot at winning Senate passage in two weeks, after Congress returns from its Easter recess. For more information on which states would gain or lose in the reallocation of the $932 million, see this post from Streetsblog Capitol Hill.