Desperately Seeking: One Senate Transportation Bill, Preferably Bipartisan

Rumors were flying yesterday that a rollout of the Senate transportation bill, or at least a significant announcement about its status, was imminent. Staffers were locked away in meetings, finalizing the last details – or so we hoped. Some said that Democrats and Republicans were still trying to work out some significant issues, and that negotiations were getting tense.

Sen. Tim Johnson, chair of the Banking Committee, joined Sen. Boxer in urging quick passage of the transportation bill. But what's holding it up? Photo: AP

The Senate adjourned for the weekend last night with no word about the bill, positive or negative. And just now, the chairs of the Banking and EPW Committees sent out a joint letter to their House and Senate colleagues urging quick action on a transportation bill. Whom are they urging if not themselves?

The statement focused on the “630,000 private sector jobs in highways and transit will be lost in 2012” if no bill is passed. It also makes a push for the bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer has been pushing, as opposed to the House proposal.

Please support a bill which maintains funding at the current levels, includes significant reforms to make the nation’s transportation programs more streamlined and efficient, and provides robust assistance for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to leverage state, local and private-sector funding.

Many groups support our current spending levels approach, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO.

Some see the statement as a bad sign that the GOP isn’t playing along, and that Boxer is left grasping at straws to try to move something forward. Others took heart that it signals good news that the transit title isn’t being targeted, since Banking is the committee with jurisdiction over transit and the joint letter shows they’re working with Boxer on EPW.

It’s getting hard to read the tea leaves, but we’ll keep digging around. With any luck, there will be something concrete next week.