The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, signed into law August 10, 2005, authorized $286.5 billion in transportation infrastructure spending for fiscal years 2005 to 2009. As one of the largest non defense discretionary bills to move through Congress, it is not unusual to revisit a bill after the fact to make technical corrections to address problems in implementation, misidentified project authorizations, and minor drafting errors.
Included in this bill are recommended technical changes from Department of Transportation that address the functional problems in implementing the bill; technical changes to SAFETEA projects which will continue to be delayed from breaking ground due to simple drafting errors in their description. Furthermore, universities and other transportation research will not receive their fully intended funding, and states will be unable to use millions of dollars transportation funds that were authorized 3 years ago.
The bill does not increase the overall size of SAFETEA. Several of my colleagues have approached me recently with additional project fixes. In some cases, I have had to say no to their requests because they either submitted them too late to be considered with our negotiations with the House; the request went beyond the scope of a technical fix; or because the proposed fix was to a House project which the House objected to the change. My Committee colleagues and I have been attempting to get this bill through the Senate since shortly after the President signed SAFETEA in 2005. However, a variety of issues have come up that have prevented our bringing the bill to the floor. In the interim, we have been open to discussing with members their fixes, giving ample time to get requests in. As in any bill of this nature there comes a point when we have to close it to further changes. We have reached that point.
Our colleagues in the House have passed this bill, I believe, seven times but each time it comes over to the Senate it has been held up. The bill before us along with the manager’s substitute amendment is the commutation of negotiations between the House and Senate. Any changes to the bill at this point will require the concurrence of the House or the bill will not proceed. Therefore, I ask my colleagues to understand that if you are planning on filing an amendment, before the Chair and I can agree to it, we need to determine if our counterparts in the House will accept the change. If they do not, we will oppose your amendment.In conclusion, I want to assure colleagues that I appreciate your responsiveness to our numerous requests to advise the Committee of your requests thereby assisting us to help you. If we were unable to satisfactorily address your concerns in this bill, please remember that there will be additional opportunities to do so when reauthorization