WASHINGTON - Congress has until tomorrow, the end of the fiscal year, to approve a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded.
Also facing a deadline is legislation that would extend the current surface transportation law as well as repeal a statutory rescission of $8.7 billion of highway contract authority that remains unobligated by governments.
The House on Friday voted 217 to 190 for a one-month stopgap measure that would keep the government funded while annual spending bills slowly make their way through Congress. The Senate is expected to take up the measure today.
In addition, an extension of the federal surface transportation law hangs in the balance as lawmakers argue over the appropriate length of time for the extension. The law - the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU - expires today.
Lawmakers have been unable to approve a bill that would replace the law. Just one bill has been introduced to reauthorize the law, and it is still pending before the House Transportation Committee.
Two measures to extend the current law also are pending. The House last week approved a three-month extension to the law that would simply continue fiscal 2009 funding levels for federal aid to states and metropolitan areas.
However, Senate transportation and public works committees have approved an 18-month extension.
Proponents of that bill say the longer delay is inevitable and that a single 18-month extension is better than a series of short extensions.
But it is likely that, instead of wrangling over the three-month or 18-month extension this week, the House and Senate will use the one-month stopgap measure to buy more time, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
"We don't anticipate [the three-month extension] is going to happen" today, said Tony Dorsey, spokesman for AASHTO. After approving the stopgap measure, "they'll have 30 days to come up with an extension," he said.
However, neither extension bill includes a provision that would revoke the part of the law that requires the federal government to rescind $8.7 billion of unobligated contract authority.
Taking away that contract authority from states would be harmful to their long-term capital project plans as well as their immediate spending plans, and would make investors nervous, according to AASHTO.
"Unless the rescission is overturned or repealed [today], states could stand to lose $3 billion in real money," Dorsey said.
He added that the rescission would take away money that was expected to go toward projects that are not yet underway. New York would lose $407 million for pending projects, for example, Dorsey said.