Senate Votes 85-11 to Begin Full Debate on Surface Transportation Reauthorization

AASHTO Journal, 10 February 2012

The Senate voted 85-11Thursday afternoon to proceed to a full debate on legislation that would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs through September 2013. Consideration of amendments is expected to begin Monday evening or Tuesday.”Today’s vote to proceed with the surface transportation bill is a significant step in the right direction,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-California, said in a statement issued Thursday evening. “The 85 votes in favor illustrate how much widespread support this job-creating legislation has. MAP-21 is truly a bipartisan bill.”

Boxer and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma and the EPW Committee’s ranking minority member, spent a few hours on the Senate floor Thursday during debate on the motion to proceed to the measure, S 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

“I am pleased by the overwhelming bipartisan vote today in the Senate as we move forward with this important jobs bill,” Inhofe said in the statement jointly issued with Boxer. Inhofe vowed “to ensure that this bipartisan momentum continues so we can pass this highway bill as soon as possible.”

Thursday’s floor action came after the fourth and final Senate panel cleared its section of the legislation. The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-6 Tuesday to approve the revenue title that will raise enough money to maintain current highway and transit investment levels plus inflation through Fiscal Year 2013.

“This bill will make meaningful investments in transportation and will help create jobs in Montana and across the country,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, said in a statement. “We need a highway system built for a 21st century economy. Our communities and businesses depend on effective transportation to help them grow, so we need to build and maintain highways to meet their needs, create jobs, and improve our economy.”

The Finance Committee’s provisions would raise a total of $10.5 billion in additional revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for federal highway and transit programs.

The Highway Trust Fund primarily relies on fuel excise taxes for its revenue, but the per-gallon tax rates have not been adjusted since 1993. The committee’s bill would cover the revenue gap by adding extra funding into the trust fund from sources that are detailed in a summary available at Minutes of the Finance Committee’s markup and several other documents related to the revenue title are available at A Joint Committee on Taxation analysis of the revenue title is available at

Prior to the conclusion of the Senate’s session Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced the chamber will reconvene at 2 p.m. Monday. After 2.5 hours of general speeches, the chamber will debate a judicial nomination for one hour, with a vote scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Debate on the surface transportation reauthorization package will then commence later Monday evening or Tuesday.

Reid called the legislation “extremely important to our country” and urged his colleagues to advance the measure next week.

“All state departments of transportation are waiting to find out what is going to happen,” Reid said. “We need to get this done. Then hopefully we can deal with other matters; but let’s not get bogged down on this legislation.”

The White House issued Thursday a Statement of Administration Policy favoring the Senate bill.

“The administration supports Senate passage of S 1813 to provide much-needed certainty and funding for the nation’s surface transportation programs,” according to the statement. “The reauthorization of the programs funded by the Highway Trust Fund is critical to the safety of the traveling public and the nation’s ability to facilitate commerce and trade.”

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