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Senate Vote Will Give GOP a Crack at the Transpo Bill Sooner

A few weeks ago, members of the House threw up their hands and voted for a year-long extension of the 2010 budget. It included an extension of the transportation reauthorization. The Senate didn't vote on it in time, so then the House voted for a three-day extension to give the Senate a few more days after the current extension expired.

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The Senate has run out of time. The three days are up today. And the upper chamber isn't planning on going along with the House's idea of extending the current budget (with a few tweaks) till September 30. Instead, the Senate is planning to vote today to extend it just until March 4.

The House will vote on whatever the Senate passes quickly. Though a short extension wasn't what the House wanted, sources say lawmakers are ready to take what they can get and go home for Christmas already.

A shorter extension means the Republican House will be able to craft their own budget sooner -- albeit for only half a year. Same goes for the transportation reauthorization. They won't have a year (really nine months now) to wait anymore. Once the new Congress gets seated in January, they'll have to put their noses to the grindstone. The Republicans have given some indication as to what a new GOP-written transpo bill might look like, and it's not quite what we were going to get from Jim Oberstar.

Will we see a new six-year reauthorization pass that early? Unlikely. Robert Puentes at the Brookings Institution is hoping they'll pass a two-year reauthorization to get us out of the cycle of endless extensions.

We mentioned last week that we're looking forward to Senator Barbara Boxer stepping up as a leader for transportation reauthorization and reform. A quicker timeline on the debate over transportation funding makes it even more critical that advocates can count on her as a champion for positive change.

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