Nov. 18, 2015 – The Conference Committee on surface transportation reauthorization holds its first public meeting today. Committee members will offer opening statements and, undoubtedly pledge to work collaboratively.
Pam Whitted, senior vice president, legislative and regulatory affairs for the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, commented, “We are pleased that negotiations on a final bill are underway. With our Highway Materials Group partners we have outlined priorities for the final bill, especially increased investment in the nation’s surface transportation network and a multi-year bill essential to provide the certainty needed for road, highway and bridge projects to move forward.”
The intended schedule for consideration of the bill by the committee is something like this: today the first and maybe only public meeting of the conference; negotiate like mad over the next 48 hours in hopes that an agreement can be reached between House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Senate Energy and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan and other key conferees so that Friday, Nov. 20, they can announce funding levels of the bill, the length of it, and perhaps other key provisions. Lawmakers are then expected to file a conference agreement on the highway and transit bill by Nov. 30.
Over the Thanksgiving week House and Senate staff are expected to draft the conference report to accompany the final bill with the intent to have the report finalized and on the House floor the first week of Dec. Ideally, the House will pass the conference report, lock in the bill language and send it to the Senate that will have to take the House passed language or start over with a new bill. This is an ambitious schedule, but certainly doable. Clearly, it is the intent of the congressional leadership to complete action on the highway bill without getting it mixed up in discussions on the omnibus appropriations bill and other year-end must pass legislation.