386 to 34: House Instructs Conference to Get It Done By Friday

There’s no excuse for dilly-dallying.

That was the overwhelming sense of the House of Representatives, which just voted 386 to 34 that the conference should wrap up its work and pass some sort of transportation compromise by Friday.

In his floor speech on the provision, sponsor Tim Walz said if the two chambers can’t agree on a compromise by Friday, the House should bring the Senate bill up for an up-or-down vote. The text of the Motion to Instruct didn’t include that stipulation. This is the entirety of the Motion as voted on:

Mr. Walz of Minnesota moves that the managers on the part of the House at the conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the Senate amendment to the bill H.R. 4348 be instructed to resolve all issues and file a conference report not later than June 22, 2012.

Many thought that the whole process would end yesterday with a meeting between House and Senate leaders, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Rep. John Mica. But rather than being the final nail in the coffin, the huddle breathed new life into the negotiations, as the participants emerged pledging to “redouble” their efforts. Boxer said she and Mica were going to meet “for hours” to hammer out a deal.

Transportation reform advocates are holding their breath. Everyone agrees that it’s far better to pass a bill — even a deeply flawed bill — than another extension, which would let the Highway Trust Fund run outand potentially force devastating cuts by the end of the year. But a compromise could easily mean that the Senate gives in to some of the House’s key demands, like eliminating the provision that lets local agencies decide how to use funds for pedestrian and bike safety. Another item in the mix is the environmental “streamlining” provision that would make it much harder for communities to have meaningful input into new projects that would impact them.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how much the House will give on its non-negotiables like the Keystone XL pipeline.

Reformers are hoping the Senate won’t negotiate away some of its most important achievements. Bike advocates are trying to mobilize outreach to Congressional offices, asking them to stay firm on the Cardin-Cochran amendment ensuring local control over bike-ped funds.