Getting in the middle of this sort of internecine thing between the House and Senate is nobodys idea of a good time, said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Transportation for America, a broad coalition formed last year to press smart-growth principles and sustainability in the reauthorization debate.
Nonetheless, powerful lobbies are making it increasingly clear they dont want to wait for the debate. The chambers Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition, which includes the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors, and the American Public Transportation Association, earlier this month wrote every Member of Congress to urge that any extension be limited until the spring.
The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which represents 32 transport-related unions, also came out strongly against the 18-month plan in an appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Other groups acknowledge they are stepping up their outreach to lawmakers and staff especially in the Senate to push for faster action on reauthorization.
While outside interests are largely united against the administrations 18-month plan, there is less unanimity on whether a short-term extension should be clean as advocated by the Chamber of Commerce and the Senate or include some reforms as a down payment on the longer-term bill.
Deron Lovaas, the federal transportation policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues that Congress should include some reforms with any extension, especially if, as expected, general revenue funds are to be transferred into the Highway Trust Fund, which operates under formulas tied to states contributions.
Youre taking general fund taxpayer money now and spending it through a transportation program thats widely recognized as broken and thats wrong, he said.
But another lobbyist said attempting to add a few targeted reforms to an extension bill is a recipe for disaster. If you open it up to one provision, youve got to open it up to everyone, and then legislatively it gets completely bogged down, the official said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.