House Committee Completes Markup on Transportation Authorization Bill

The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure completed a markup this week of the $494 billion INVEST in American Act, which is the proposal by committee Democrats to create a reauthorization of surface transportation programs to replace a current authorization that expires on Sept. 30.

The INVEST legislation would authorize $58 billion in rail operations over the next five years and provide a series of reforms to Amtrak’s governance, operations, and onboard services.

Political observers, though, do not expect the bill to become law. The Senate is expected to adopt its own legislation and difference between the two bills will need to be hashed out in a conference committee.

Republican members of the House committee named the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review Act.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), the ranking GOP member of the House Transportation Committee, described the Democratic bill as a nonstarter.

Graves said the GOP proposal is a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that reflects Republican surface transportation principles.

During the markup sessions, Republicans took exception to some climate change programs introduced by Democrats that the latter said were designed to reduce carbon emissions.

The committee also considered hundreds of amendments, and adopted 34 Republican amendments and 23 Democratic amendments.

Among the amendments approved was a proposal to reinstate the recently eliminated dining car service on Amtrak long-distance routes.

It also adopted an amendment to eliminates $100 million per year in funding from Amtrak’s National Network authorization in a newly created fund designed to help states cover the costs of providing state-supported services.

Instead that funding is to be transferred to a program to subsidize loans to freight rail and passenger rail projects.

The INVEST Act bill will now move to the House floor on June 30 where House leaders want to see it adopted before the July 4th recess.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is working on its own surface transportation authorization legislation.

There is some thought in Washington that pressure building on various front for an infrastructure investment bill may help pave the way for passage of the surface transportation legislation.

The Trump administration has suggested a $1 trillion infrastructure plan but has not released details about what it might include.

Congressional Democrats will seek to merger the INVEST in America Act into a larger $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan designed to provide economic stimulus and hoping to work with the Trump administration to find a compromise package that works for both parties.

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