WASHINGTON — Congress last night was poised to approve a second stopgap measure to fund the federal government, including transportation and bond-related programs, for another seven weeks.
House and Senate conferees agreed to attach a provision extending appropriations for federal programs through Dec. 18 to the Interior and Environment appropriations bill. The House voted 247 to 178 to approve the conference report yesterday. Congressional sources said the Senate was expected to vote on the measure last night. The original appropriations measure was easily approved by the House in June and the Senate in September.
The current continuing resolution expires Saturday.
It was approved just in time to keep surface transportation programs funded when the current six-year transportation law expired on Sept. 30. The extension was enacted despite demands from House transportation leaders that Congress take up a new transportation bill instead of approving stopgap measures. The last time Congress approved a new transportation bill, it acted only after a dozen extensions.
Included in the funding extension voted on yesterday is a measure to provide up to $200 million to public housing agencies for housing vouchers “to prevent termination of assistance to families.”
The final bill also provides $2.1 billion for the clean water state revolving fund and $1.387 billion for the drinking water state revolving fund. That, combined with state and tribal assistance grants for infrastructure, provide a total of nearly $3.644 billion for water and sewer infrastructure projects.
The bill requires at least 30% of drinking water SRF grants and 30% of clean water SRF grants of more than $1 billion to be used by states to forgive loans or provide negative-interest loans, which essentially are grants. State revolving funds are used to provide low-interest or no-interest loans to publicly owned water agencies. They are sometimes used in conjunction with bond financing for water and sewer infrastructure projects.
Congress is expected to continue working into December this year, due mostly to health care reform legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said earlier this week that members should expect to be in session through Thanksgiving. The Senate will work “as long as necessary” into December, according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.