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A view of the US Capitol Building along the Downtown Bike Lane Pilot Project
A view of the U.S. Capitol Building along
the Downtown Bike Lane Pilot Project
(Elvert Barnes)
Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday night that a transportation bill has a 50-50 chance of clearing the Senate-House conference committee today. Statements from some of the 47 members of the committee are now saying the chances may be better. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) The Hill: "We're right on the precipice of victory. I feel very optimistic."

The bill must be approved before June 30 when the government loses its authority to collect the federal 18.4 cents per gallon gasoline tax that funds surface transportation projects.

Inhofe wouldn't confirm anything about the bill because of an agreement between him and committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) not to reveal any details of the negotiations. But the rumor is spreading that a provision to get the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline approved will not be included in the bill. Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich writes:

Politically-charged provisions forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and rolling back EPA rules on coal ash will not be included in the final deal, according to aides. That could make it more difficult for House GOP leaders to secure votes for a final deal from Republicans, who have voted several times in favor of the measures and in many cases insisted on its inclusion in the highway bill.

In a concession by Democrats, extra money for land and water conservation looks to be left out of the deal. There are likely to be further reductions to transportation “enhancement” requirements forcing states to spend a certain portion of their highway funds on bike paths and other non-road projects.

Republicans appear to have scored a victory on the pace of environmental reviews for projects. While the original Senate bill limited reviews to 15 years, the deal afoot among conferees limits reviews to eight years, aides said. The final deal also appears to include extra money for rural schools and for Gulf Coast states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The Senate has already passed a two-year transportation bill, but the House never brought a bill to the floor because of disputes within the Republican Party. There were a number of issues, but a key one came from the tea party wing, which argued that the proposed $260 billion in spending was too much. Inflation-adjusted that is 21 percent below the appropriation for the 2005 transportation bill, which expired in 2009. Since then, surface transportation projects have been funded by nine extensions of the expired bill. The latest extension was passed March 29 and expires Saturday.

Environmental advocates have worried all along that the conference committee would return a bill that is much more like the proposed House bill than the bill that cleared the Senate. The House bill was an extremist piece of legislation that would require more drilling for oil and using the revenues to fund various projects, cutting environmental review requirements for some projects, gutting programs related to bikeways, pedestrian-ways and mass transit, and reducing spending overall.

Kevin Mills, vice president of Policy and Trail Development of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, blogged this morning about the probable cuts in "transportation enhancements" such as bikeways:

How did we come to this point? These outcomes are vastly worse than current law as well as MAP-21, the bipartisan Senate bill that contained the only real transportation reforms coming into the conference negotiations. Senate leaders and the White House have been primarily focused on moving transportation as a “jobs bill.” Further, the White House issued a veto threat if the bill presented included the Keystone pipeline, a key plank in the House extension bill that set up the conference committee. Senator Boxer came to the negotiations with the jobs frame, marching orders to keep out Keystone and a personal priority to grow a program that provides credit assistance for big projects (“TIFIA”). In exchange, she may have made concessions on key points of contention like TE and environmental reviews.
When will find out what happened? Sen. Inhofe has said we'll know everything by midnight tonight for sure. That's Reid's drop-dead deadline for getting the bill in shape for review by both houses of Congress.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:34:00 PM PDT

  •  The only thing I heard was Luke Russert saying (4+ / 0-)

    that Keystone was out, but that some environmental things were "watered down".

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:37:08 PM PDT

  •  "precipice of victory"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Snatching something from something whatever....

    Not blaming Bush for the mess we're in, is like not blaming a train engineer for a fatal train wreck because he's no longer driving the train.

    by JML9999 on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 02:02:41 PM PDT

  •  If God meant us to ride bikes or walk (4+ / 0-)

    she'd have given us legs and feet. Ronald Reagan rode a horse, so that's OK, but everyone knows that bicycles in particular are a UN plot.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 02:16:11 PM PDT

  •  I just heard on my local news that (0+ / 0-)

    a tentative deal has been reached on both student loans and transportation.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 02:22:38 PM PDT

    •  Student loans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Students/parents that have secured "student loans" must be required to pay those back.  I can't be more adamant about how I feel about that.  I paid for my college education and so did just so many others and just because the economy is busted, we can't just say that government should pick up the cost of students that "say" they can't afford their education.  

      I know that's probably not popular here, but, it's how I feel and I'm betting people that struggled to pay their own way through struggling and not being able to do some things we wanted to do so as to pay for our education feel the same way.

      I don't know what's planned.  But if it's something that sees taxpayers paying for college educations for great numbers of those attending university, I'm totally against that.

      The truth is sometimes very inconvenient.

      by commonsensically on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 02:35:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bill allegedly gives with one hand, takes with... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Eric Nelson

    ...the other. Rather dramatically. Link...

    Some BP oil apocalypse fines will go to the Gulf States.

    Women lose breast & cervical cancer screening, foster kids lose Medicaid, total elimination of hospice and dentures, 10% across the board cut.

    How very Republican.

    ...a transportation bill that will include key elements of legislation to funnel billions of dollars in BP oil spill fine money to the five Gulf States. But it looks like the deal might come at a high price for Louisiana's Medicaid budget and the people who depend on it. At risk, according to the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is $425 million in federal Medicaid assistance to Louisiana for Fiscal Year 2013, and $226 million for Fiscal Year 2014.

    If the reduction in federal Medicaid assistance materializes, Greenstein said Louisiana's Medicaid program will no longer provide services through its Take Charge waiver program for women with breast cancer and cervical cancer, and foster children at 133 percent of the poverty level. Medicaid's hospice program and adult denture program would be eliminated. The state Medicaid program would no longer provide "uncompensated care" funding that it now pays within DHH, to the LSU system and to rural hospitals. And there would be a 10.2 percent across-the-board cut in payments to Medicaid providers.

    The news dampened what would have otherwise been a moment of unambiguous celebration for the success of the Restore Act.

    Understatement worthy of amplification...

    The news dampened what would have otherwise been a moment of unambiguous celebration for the success of the Restore Act.


  •  Need an investigative committee (0+ / 0-)

    to find out what this committee is doing...

    Thanks for the idea Issa... lol

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 03:02:12 AM PDT

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