1,000 Days With No Transpo Bill. How Much Longer Will the Wait Last?

Conference negotiations are continuing, Congressional staffers are getting no sleep, legislators could even lose their weekend if they don’t get this transportation bill done. Politico noted this morning a key fact that seems to be flying under the radar: the deadline isn’t really Saturday. It’s actually today, if House members are to have the requisite three days to read the bill. (The GOP made a big deal over not having enough time to read long and complicated bills while the Dems were in charge.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says they'll probably get a bill done -- but if they don't, it's weekend work time. Photo: Office of Harry Reid

Meanwhile, Transportation for America has alerted the Twitterverse that today marks 1,000 days since the last transportation bill expired. The Blue Green Alliance’s #stillwaiting Twitter campaign of earlier this month is only becoming more relevant: “When Congress last passed a long-term transportation bill we couldn’t tweet this tweet to say we’re #stillwaiting,” they tweeted. “Nic Cage has acted in 19 movies since 2005 but we’re #stillwaiting 4 a long-term transportation bill from #Congress.” Alliance staff members got in on the action: “When the US last had a long term #transportation GaGa was just an emotion. Hey Congress we’re #StillWaiting,” tweeted one.

After a long and angst-ridden roller coaster, lawmakers are increasingly upbeat about the chances of passing a bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the odds are better than 50-50. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) says, “We’re in very good shape.” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer expressed a little more pessimism, or at least, befuddlement: “I don’t know what to expect,” he said. That’s par for the course in a negotiation process that’s kept House Democrats in the dark throughout.

Even if they’re this close, this week might not be the end of it. They might need an extension of week or two just to get over the reading-period hurdle, get it through both houses, and get the city’s fastest bike courier to weave through DC traffic to bring it to the White House.

Active transportation advocates are still sounding the alarm over the possibility that Senate Democrats are trading away local control for bike/ped funds. And just about everyone is hammering Congress to just get this done already. The Washington Post affirmed in a Sunday editorial that a) the transportation bill is more important than another debate stealing the limelight this week over student loan rates, b) transportation is a federal responsibility, and c) this bill would be a lot better if it would just raise the gas tax already.

Some Politico reporters are saying that the student loan issue might be rolled into the transportation legislation – as if combining unrelated items makes for easier-to-pass bills. Meanwhile, other Politico reporters are saying that rather than fold in new bills, the transportation bill itself might be split in two: transportation provisions and unrelated issues, like the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash, which have threatened to derail a compromise.

All we can say for sure is that this is going to be an interesting week.

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