THUD post-mortem: what happened?
This time last week we were bracing for two possible amendments in Congress against biking and walking funding. In the end we not only didn’t have any amendments, but Congress didn’t even pass the Transportation, HUD appropriations bill!
In the Senate, we found out early that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had introduced an amendment to strip all funding from the Transportation Alternatives programs, and redirect it to bridge repair. His message: pit bikes vs. bridges. In the past this has been a dangerous argument against us, but when we look at this amendment through the lens of local control and transportation needs, we see that Americans understand the value of these programs to their communities’ economic health, safety and transportation priorities.
First, the way the Transportation Alternatives program is set up -– the funding goes to local governments through a competitive process — to help build local priorities that are important for the safety and economic development of communities. This small amount of funding could barely make a dent in the bridge repair necessary, but it can make a big difference for cities and towns. Second, states already have the ability to transfer 50% of the funding out of Transportation Alternatives to any other transportation program, including bridge repair — only 7 states chose to do that. The Paul amendment would override the decision states made to keep the money in Transportation Alternatives.
The Senate spent over a week debating and voting on several amendments on the THUD bill — but not this one. Thanks to the more than 8,600 emails you sent to Congress, Senators heard that message. The amendment never even made it to the Senate floor. If it had, our supporters in the Senate were ready!
Thank you to everyone who shared our alert and blog as well — a significant chunk of our alerts were sent not by people who got an alert email from us, but from someone who linked to our blog or facebook page!
In the House we were also prepared for an anti-bike amendment, and because of the ‘open’ rule on amendments, it could have happened at any time. In the end, the House abandoned the bill early into the debate; they didn’t have the votes to pass it and any anti-bike amendment never have gone to the floor.
We thank all of you who were monitoring twitter and ready to help had the need arose — it would have been a fast and furious campaign, but we felt ready for it.
The bad news: The Senate bill failed, too, falling to a filibuster on Thursday afternoon. With neither chamber passing a THUD appropriations bill, Congress will barely have time in September to just extend existing transportation and housing programs and funding levels from last year (along with the other budget bills) or shut down the government. The result is that we don’t get a carefully reevaluated spending plan — we get a continuation of a 2012 spending plan two years later. (Congress failed to do a budget for 2013 as well.)
The good news: Americans once again told Congress that we value bicycling as a key component to the safe and effective transportation system we want in our communities.