Leaders of the House transportation committee, doggedly pursuing a six-year, $450 billion infrastructure bill this year, pressed their case this morning before Ways and Means Committee colleagues who must approve a new funding mechanism for their massive legislation.
On transport funding, a question looms: Whither Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY)? (Photo: BusinessWeek)
"We should have indexed a long time ago the highway user fee" -- also known as the gas tax -- transportation panel chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) told the Ways and Means revenue panel. "But that got lost in the process."
Oberstar asked Ways and Means members to okay a $3 billion patch for the highway trust fund, which is expected to run dry next month.
That course would postpone until September the House's transportation-funding battle with the White House and the Senate, where 18 months of stopgap funding is almost certain to be approved within two weeks.
Ways and Means has dedicated most of its time and energy to health care reform this summer, leading to widespread speculation that transportation would fall by the wayside. But Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of Ways and Means' revenue panel, told Oberstar that he was on the transportation committee's side.
"I share your position that we should go forward" with a bill this year, Neal told Oberstar.
Yet the chairman of the full Ways and Means committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), has yet to throw his weight behind Oberstar's goals. Without Rangel's muscle, the thorny question of how to pay for a new transportation bill would be almost impossible to resolve by the end of September. Read more...