Breaking: House Approves Nadler, Oberstar, Shuster Amendments for Stimulus Package

Fantastic news for transit advocates… but Senate action is still necessary

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) proposed an amendment that would increase funds for transit by $3 billion; we discussed it last night. $1.5 billion of the funds would go to New Starts; the rest would go to formula transit funds. Representative John Mica (R-FL), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, came out very seriously in favor of the amendment, saying that infrastructure projects are expensive, that they need funding, and that this is simply a small percentage of what is needed. Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA) said he reluctantly opposed the amendment, because of the size of the bill in general, and his concerns about increasing it.

The amendment passed on a voice vote, with no audible “nays.”

This is excellent news for transit advocates, who have been asking for a significant increase in transit funds from the limited amount provided in the stimulus bill – only $1 billion provided for New Starts, for instance.

We’ll have to wait to see how the Senate handles this issue, because the equivalent Senate bill is different enough that it will need to be altered significantly if it is to increase mass transit funding by similar amounts.

the transport politic will be following this important bill over the next days and weeks, focusing on the Senate’s actions.

Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) proposed an amendment that, in official federal parlance, “Would clarify that federal funds received by States under the bill for highway maintenance shall not be used to replace existing funds in place for transportation projects.” Representative James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, rose up in support of the amendment, arguing that the funds from the Transportation Committee should go to projects that have not yet already been funded. States would not be allowed to replace existing funding with federal outlays, only provide a “net increase in total spending,” according to Mr. Shuster. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) came out in favor of the amendment, speaking about Houston’s Metro Solutions project as an example for this.

The amendment passed on a voice vote, with no audible “nays.”

Mr. Oberstar sponsored an amendment to ensure that 50% of funding towards transportation be exercised within 90 days, down from 120 to 150 days as the stimulus bill currently suggests. The amendment passed on a seemingly unanimous voice vote, with no audible “nay” votes.

Mr. Mica offered his strong support. Representative Tom Lathan (R-IA), however, did suggest that the timeline in the proposed bill is already too short and that the Congressional Budget Office was against the amendment; Mr. Oberstar responded quickly that jobs exist and that transportation agencies are ready to get started immediately.

3 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Andrew

    A small victory. Let’s keep pushing.

  • JK

    Credit Jerry and T4 America, but save words like “fantastic” for when we win $100 billion transit packages. New York City alone needs $30 billion in new capital funds for the next five years to support state of good repair and very modest system expansion. Transit systems across the country are in a state of near collapse. Sadly, this is chump change and is going to do zero for the transit riders who face getting walloped with fare hikes and service cuts.

  • Perhaps you’re right, JK, but considering the degree to which transit was short-changed in the first draft of this bill, an added $3 billion is a big deal.

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