By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying expectations, Congress has reached the homestretch on a major overhaul of federal transportation programs that is critical if the nation is to avoid steep cutbacks in highway and transit aid.
The bill is driven partly by election-year politics. Both Congress and President Barack Obama have made transportation infrastructure investment the centerpiece of their jobs agendas. But the political imperative for passing a bill has been complicated by House Republicans' insistence on including a mandate for federal approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The White House has threatened to veto the measure if it retains the Keystone provision.
And there are other points of disagreement between the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, including how to pay for transportation programs and how much leverage the federal government should have over how states spend their aid money. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said it's unlikely Congress will pass a final bill until after the November elections.
Despite LaHood's pessimism, lawmakers and transportation lobbyists said they believe prospects are improving for passage of a final bill by June 30, when the government's authority to spend highway trust fund money expires. The fund, which pays for roads and transit, is forecast to go broke sometime next year... FULL ARTICLE
Tue, May 1, 2012
by John Cox