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James Oberstar

‘A Dozen or So’ Senators Delay Passage of Oberstar’s Highway Funding Fix

11:58 AM PDT on March 29, 2010

A contentious congressional dispute over
$932 million in transportation funding remains unresolved this week
after the Senate approved a one-month extension of federal aviation law
rather than a three-month version of the bill that included a fix to
the provision at issue.

harry_reid_rotunda2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (Photo: LV City Life)

transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) had added
language to the three-month aviation measure redistributing the $932
million based on existing highway funding formulas -- rather than
giving 58 percent of the money to four states by extending project
earmarks, as would occur under the jobs bill that President Obama signed 10 days ago.

Oberstar's proposed fix also would amend
language in that jobs bill that disproportionately under-funded seven
federal transportation programs, including Safe Routes to School, Metropolitan Planning, and Recreational Trails.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had vowed to the House chairman that
upper chamber would approve his fix as part of a future jobs bill, but
objections from several senators prevented it from hitching a ride on
the aviation bill.

CQ identified one of the objecting senators in its story on the issue (sub. req'd.):

Anaide to Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., one of thesenators who whose state stands to lose under the Oberstar formulation,said he was one of "a dozen or so" senators who had concerns.

"The last 11 FAA bills we've passed were clean, and a numberof members objected to adding a controversial highway change to thatbill," the aide said. "It's an issue that needs to be addressed, butthis FAA [bill] simply wasn't the place."

Republicans preferred Oberstar's solution, in part because their states by and large would do better under his plan.

The sizable contingent of lawmakers backing Oberstar's changes will get
their next shot at winning Senate passage in two weeks, after Congress
returns from its Easter recess. For more information on which states
would gain or lose in the reallocation of the $932 million, see this post from Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

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