Unable to work out their differences regarding passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure alongside a now-reduced $1.75 trillion domestic funding bill, the House of Representatives had to pass another short-term extension of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST on October 28.
The House passed that extension – this one lasting through December 3 – by a vote of 358-59, with the Senate deeming it passed by “unanimous consent.”
Though President Biden visited Capitol Hill on October 28 to tout his administration’s success in negotiating a smaller domestic spending bill – known as the Build Back Better or BBB reconciliation bill as laid out in framework by the White House – it became clear the House and Senate could not fully agree on the bill’s final language.
Without that agreement, there were not enough votes for the “Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act” or IIJA to pass the House this week.
After passing the extension, Democratic leadership said the House plans to reconvene next week to continue debate on the BBB and IIJA measures.
“For the second time in a month, Congress has passed a short-term extension of surface transportation programs, leaving state departments of transportation in limbo once again,” said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, in a statement. “We implore the House to pass—well before December 3—the IIJA, a historic bipartisan bill passed by the Senate almost three months ago.”
Tymon added that the IIJA includes “substantial funding increases” for all modes of transportation and allows for five years of funding stability for highway, transit, and passenger rail programs – something state departments of transportation desperately need to deliver a safe, efficient, and multimodal transportation system, he said.
“AASHTO members need certainty to plan transportation projects to meet the needs of their communities and keep our economy moving, and the impact of these short-term extensions is not insignificant,” Tymon emphasized. “Congress must pass the IIJA immediately to lessen the harmful impacts that come from the lack of a long-term surface transportation bill.”
Earlier this month, AASHTO released the results of a survey highlighting the impact of short-term extensions on state DOTs. More than 35 AASHTO members detailed the negative effects short-term extensions pose to their home states in that survey.
Complicating the legislative picture is that December 3 is also the deadline for raising the nation’s debt ceiling and when temporarily extended fiscal year 2022 government funding via continuing resolution runs out.