Senate Approves Stimulus Bill — On to Conference Committee

The Senate approved its version of the stimulus bill this afternoon
by a 61-37 vote. Attention now turns to conference committee
negotiations, where differences between the House and Senate bills will
get ironed out. Politico has the scoop on who will be negotiating on the Senate side, and they’re not exactly an urban bunch:

Obama’s goal has been to complete negotiations before the Presidents’
Day recess that begins this weekend. Most observers believe that will
be very difficult. But to speed the process, the leadership has opted
for a very limited number of senators to be represented in the talks:
[Majority Leader Harry] Reid; Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) and his ranking
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa; and Appropriations Chairman
Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and his ranking Republican, [Thad] Cochran [of Mississippi].

From
a green transportation perspective, the Senate version is worse than
the House version in almost every respect. One of major differences is
the lack of a dedicated funding stream for bike and pedestrian projects
in the Senate bill. The League of American Bicyclists has put out an action alert to help guarantee those funds in the bill that Obama signs:

Both
bills include billions for transportation infrastructure, but only the
House bill includes funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the
Transportation Enhancements program.

The House Bill
includes approximately $1.35 billion for Transportation Enhancements of
which 50-60% is traditionally spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects.
The Senate Bill does not explicitly include Transportation
Enhancements, so it’s unclear whether this funding will be in the final
bill.

Conferees need to hear that Transportation
Enhancements are important to stimulating the economy, creating green
jobs, and moving us towards a sustainable future.

"We’ve
always said that we need people to stand up and say the word ‘bicycle,’
now we need people to contact the conferees and say the word
‘bicycle’," said League director Andy Clarke, adding that the best way
to reach the negotiators is to contact your own representatives in
Congress. For some phone call ammo, check out Earl Blumenauer’s piece in the Huffington Post countering Senator Jim DeMint’s bike-hostile amendment to the Senate stim bill.

The two bills are also $3.6 billion apart on transit funding. (Head over to the Transport Politic for a handy summary of the differences.) We’ll keep you posted on everything that’s on the line in the next few days.

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