UPDATED: Senate and House Drop Debate on Transportation Bill
UPDATE THURSDAY 1:00 PM:
TRANSPORTATION APPROPRIATIONS FAILS IN SENATE: In an almost party-line vote, the Senate blocked the THUD bill. The Senate scheduled a vote today for cloture on the Transporation, HUD Appropriations, which would have ended debate and brought a vote on the substance of the bill. For a cloture vote to pass it must get 60 votes. The cloture vote on THUD failed to do so with a final vote of 54-43.
The bill had been hailed as bi-partisan and passed the Appropriations Committee with strong support from both sides of the aisle. However, this week, Republican leadership in the Senate argued against the bill because, they said, the funding level was too high.
This means now that both chambers have failed to pass a Transportation and Housing budget. Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution by the end of September in order to keep U.S. Department of Transportation open and transportation dollars flowing.
On Monday, we wrote that the House would debate and vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill on Tuesday night. Then on Tuesday debate was abruptly cancelled and delayed until Wednesday. Then, today, the whole bill was cancelled and put off until September.
So what happened? We believe what happened is that enough members declared they would vote no that House Leadership pulled the vote to avoid having their bill fail.
It’s a testament to the American people wanting a robust and diverse transportation system (as well as Housing and Urban Development Programs). The cuts are so major that leadership can’t muster the votes to pass it.
The House bill as written was $4 billion below sequester cuts. It cut transportation programs like TIGER, Amtrak and some transit programs. It also made extreme cuts to low income housing programs and the Community Development Block Grant program.
The House may take it up again in September, but given that there are only 9 legislative days on the Calendar for September, it may be dead for the year.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Numbers
2014 President’s budget
House Sequester level
House THUD current
The Senate, meanwhile, has been debating its version of the THUD bill a bit at a time all week. At their current pace it would take over a month to get through the 70-plus amendments that have been introduced.
Thursday morning will be a make or break vote for the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has called for a cloture vote, which means they’ll vote to end debate and move on to votes on amendments and the bill as a whole. They will also have to agree upon which amendments they have time to hear — and which will be dropped.
Now this bill is in jeopardy, too. Cloture votes are often where filibusters happen, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is threatening to do just that because funding is too high.
What happens if the bills don’t pass?
If the House and/or Senate fail to pass the THUD appropriations bill Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution (CR) in September, which will extend current funding levels and current programs. That means TIGER, Amtrak, and housing programs continue at a level below the Senate and above the House.
Hopefully, they’ll be able to at least do this -– and without any anti-bike amendments!