An emergency law could revitalize transportation programs and end vacation hours caused by the vote delay.
Lawmakers are preparing an emergency bill that could revive key surface transportation programs that expired Thursday and bring back nearly 4,000 laid-off workers as party leaders negotiate a way to approve a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan.
While Congress passed legislation Thursday to prevent a fiscal year-end slump in federal funding, it failed to address existing transportation programs included in the broader infrastructure bill that President Biden and lawmakers negotiated this year. With legislation delayed by deep disputes within the Democratic caucus, the new fiscal year kicked off on Friday with those programs temporarily frozen and about 3,700 employees on furlough.
Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told Democrats in a closed session Friday that he had drafted legislation that would extend the programs by 30 days, according to two people who were aware of the comments.
There remains a chance that it would not be necessary if the bipartisan infrastructure legislation were passed. President Biden went to Capitol Hill Friday afternoon to push for a closed session vote with House Democrats, and the Senate remained in session Friday, with few senators physically present, and able to record it. by the unanimous consent of all 100 senators.
The transportation ministry said the administration was working to quickly re-approve the frozen programs, and payments to repay state and transit agencies for existing subsidies could keep work going uninterrupted.
Democratic leaders had used the fiscal year deadline to pressure ordinary lawmakers to support the passage of the bipartisan bill on Thursday, though they were ultimately unsuccessful. The bill would, among other things, update and maintain the highway, transit and rail programs for five years.
Jim Tymon, the executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, called the inaction “disappointing” and “damaging our economy and the quality of life of our communities.”