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Federal Transportation Bill

Senate Panel to Vote on Transportation Bill Next Month

11:07 AM EDT on October 21, 2011

While a House transportation bill still appears to be a long way off, the Senate is prepared to move forward on its version. EPW Committee leaders announced yesterday that they’ll be marking up their two-year bill November 9.

This is good news for three reasons: First, it’ll be the first time we’ll be seeing full legislative text beyond the bill outline released over the summer. And second, the scheduling of a markup may signal that Senate leadership is on board to vote on the bill before the end of the year. After all, lawmakers generally don’t like to release bill text too far in advance of a vote, since it leaves too much time for critics to pick it apart.

The EPW Committee had been reluctant to release the bill and vote on it before receiving final sign-off from the Finance Committee that it had definitively “found” the $12 billion it needed to fully fund the bill. And while the Finance Committee has indicated several times that it’s “close,” it seemed Committee Chair Max Baucus was waiting for the super committee to finish its work before making a final determination.

But recently, EPW has given itself permission to move forward with the transportation bill even without a solid promise from the Finance Committee.

Indeed, rather than wait for the super committee before starting the process, some speculate that EPW wants to act now so they’re ready to move forward on the bill when the super committee issues its report, in order to be relevant to that discussion.

Some also say that rather than wait for the House to act first, EPW leaders may want to get ahead of the House, in order for the Senate bill to be the starting point for negotiations.

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