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Congress has adjourned for the Thanksgiving recess. They will reconvene on December 1. That is only four days before the latest MAP-21 authorization extension expires on December 4 and only 9 working days before December 11 when the latest FY'16 appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR) expires.
The staffs of the House STRRA and Senate DRIVE Act conference will work over the recess to continue to sort out the differences in the two authorization bills. It appears that most, if not all, of the highway and transit policy issues have been reconciled. The big question is the level of funding and the "payfors". Those issues will be decided at the highest levels of leadership. There continues to be considerable opposition to many of the "payfors".
At this point, it appears almost certain that Congress will pass a multi-year surface transportation authorization bill before the end of the calendar year. The big unknown is whether the final, agreed to "payfors" will be sufficient to fund a three-year bill at flat levels, a five-year bill at higher levels or a six-year bill at essentially flat levels. However, given the limited number of days Congress will be in session before December 4 and the number of issues still to be resolved, it is very likely that one more short-term extension will be needed - presumably no longer than mid-December.
Last week, the Senate began floor debate on its version of the FY'16 annual THUD (US DOT) appropriations bill. The House passed its version of the spending bill back in June. Additional funding was added to the Senate bill as part of the two-year government-wide budget deal agreed to a few weeks ago. The Senate bill now includes $600M for the popular TIGER program (up from $500M) and an additional $311M for FTA Capital Improvement Grants. The Senate had hoped to finish the bill before the Thanksgiving recess, but Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked progress on the bill demanding consideration of his amendment barring assistance for refugees. As a result, the stand-alone DOT bill was pulled from the floor and FY'16 transportation funding will now be considered as part of the massive FY'16 omnibus appropriations bill. The omnibus spending bill must be completed by December 11 in order to avoid a government shutdown.