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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1640

Location: Washington, DC


S. 1640. A bill to provide an extension of highway programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund pending enactment of a law reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President. I am introducing today the Transportation Extension Act of 2003 which will extend the expiring Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century an additional 5 months. Senators, JEFFORDS, BOND, WARNER, VOINOVICH, CRAPO, CHAFEE, CORNYN, MURKOWSKI, THOMAS, and ALLARD join me as original cosponsors on this short-term extension.

As my colleagues may be aware, we are now 7 days from the expiration of TEA-21. Despite the best efforts of Senator BOND and myself, we have been unable to secure the necessary floor time for consideration of a comprehensive 6-year bill.

This bill provide 5 months worth of the $35.5 billion allowed under the Budget Resolution and a corresponding amount of obligation limitation. This is a significant, 7-percent increase in highway funding over 2003, which will translate into over 100,000 new jobs.

Of course, the best thing we can do to create economic opportunity is enact a comprehensive, 6-year reauthorization. As we all know, highway bills are jobs bills. A highway bill drafted at $255 billion over 6 years as proposed by the Environment and Public Works Committee will create about two million new American jobs. This combined with the tax cuts signed by President Bush is the best stimulus the economy can receive.

Let me be very clear that my preference is that we would be completing a 6-year comprehensive bill, not working on a five-month extension, but reality is that the funding needed to do a comprehensive 6-year bill at $255 billion has not yet been identified. Because of that, I believe the best outcome for the long term program is to do a 5-month extension and continue
to work on a comprehensive 6-year bill.

Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, I wish to make some brief remarks about the extension of the Transportation Equity Act, often referred to as TEA-21.

Chairman INHOFE and I, along with subcommittee Chairman BOND and ranking member HARRY REID, have been working together on drafting a comprehensive, bipartisan 6-year transportation reauthorization bill. Unfortunately, that reauthorization effort will not be completed before TEA-21 expires on September 30.

Thus, as with the previous reauthorization of ISTEA by TEA-21, we will need to do a short extension of TEA-21. In the interest of time, and to avoid any concerns about potential disruptions, we have used major portions of the same short-extension language used for ISTEA in 1997 for this extension.

It is important that I clarify some aspects of this short extension with the chairman of the committee, Senator INHOFE.

The purpose of this short extension is to continue the Federal surface transportation programs and transportation investment patterns. For that reason, we have provided considerable short-term spending flexibility to the States.

However, in a longer term extension, if any were needed, we should be consistent with Congressional goals set forth in TEA-21. Thus, I want to ensure that if there is a need for another extension we more closely adhere to the flexibility provisions set forth in TEA-21. This would require, for example, changes to the text used in this short-term extension regarding section 133(d).

In a short-term extension there is little risk that investment patterns would be altered in a manner inconsistent with TEA-21 and thus the proposed language is acceptable for the short term.

Senator INHOFE do you agree with my understanding that the bipartisan extension we have proposed works well in the short term but would require some modification to its flexibility provisions if it were to apply for a longer period of time?
In addition, will you agree to work with me to make changes to the language if we have to do another extension to address the concerns I have raised?

Mr. INHOFE. Yes, I will work with the Senator on his concerns if we have to do a longer term extension.

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