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Federal Transportation Bill

Oberstar to Back 3-Month Delay in Transport Bill As Soon As Next Week

House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is readying
a proposal to extend current infrastructure law by three months -- 15
months less than the delay preferred by the White House -- and could introduce the legislation as soon as next week, his office said today.

"It's
obvious that we're running out of September," Oberstar spokesman Jim
Berard told Streetsblog Capitol Hill, noting that lawmakers have become
caught up by legislative battles over health care and climate change.

"We're at a point where a decision has to be made: it's either to extend for a short time or have the
whole system collapse," Berard added. "Under those circumstances of two
bad choices," Oberstar is prepared to back a short-term extension
rather than letting the 2005 federal transport bill expire at the end
of the month.

A three-month delay, endorsed last week
by Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) would punt decision-making on
transportation reform until just after New Year's. Even then,
revenue-raisers on the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate
Finance Committee are still likely to face considerable obstacles in paying for Oberstar's six-year, $500 billion legislation.

Berard
acknowledged that the extension would have to be negotiated with House
leaders as well as the White House and the Senate, both of which have
already come out in favor of an 18-month delay. "We may, as early as
next week, introduce a bill and start the process," he said.

That bill would be a "clean" extension," in Capitol parlance -- omitting data collection money and other small-scale reforms that the Obama administration has proposed.

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