Oberstar introduces 3-month transportation extension

The US House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman is seeking to reauthorise the country’s current transportation spending programmes in bid to give himself more time to push through a larger, more ambitious $500bn, six-year reauthorisation bill.

Jim Oberstar, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has introduced a bill to extend the US’ current transportation programmes for three months starting 1 October.

The bill would extend the programmes’ funding authority until at least 31 December 2009 or until a “multi-year law reauthorising” the programmes has been passed.

The US’ current transportation programme is set to expire at the end of this month, creating a critical need for another transportation spending authority to take its place. Oberstar has also been pushing for a new, ambitious $500 billion, six-year transportation reauthorisation. But because of the ongoing debate over healthcare, consideration of the bill has been delayed in Congress.

The temporary reauthorisation bill, introduced last night, is expected to come to a vote on the house floor today under a suspension of the rules.

The suspension of the rules is an expedited procedure used for non-controversial bills. Under the suspension, debate is limited and no amendments are allowed. Measures require a two-thirds majority to pass and the vote can be either a voice vote or a recorded vote.

Earlier today, under the same rules, the House passed a reauthorisation of the funding authority for the Federal Aviation Administration through 31 December 2009.

The Oberstar bill was supposed to come right after the FAA measure, said Jim Berard, a spokesperson for the committee, but it has been delayed because the House Republican conference is opposing the bill.

The conference consists of the 178 Republican members of the House.

“If Republicans vote against it, we will not get the two-thirds majority,” Berard said, adding: “If we don’t succeed in passing the three-month extension we have a plan to add extension language to the continuing resolution that will provide for an extension of all federal programmes that have not been extended,” he added.