Congress Makes Moves on Infrastructure, Transportation-Related Bills

With a growing chance that Congressional leaders may reduce if not eliminate the traditional "August recess" this year in order to pass a variety of spending bills before the federal government's fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, lawmakers moved on three infrastructure- and transportation-related measures this week.

The House Appropriations Committee formally approved a fiscal year 2019 transportation spending bill on May 23 by a vote of 34-17. It now heads to the full House for a vote, though there's been no formal date set yet for that vote. The committee approved by voice vote an amendment added by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., that directs USDOT to report on any updated findings on the impact of increasing the length of twin-trailer trucks to 33 feet; a controversial topic within the freight transport industry.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 on May 23 and it, too, now goes before the House for a full vote. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed a similar bill on May 22, also unanimously (21-0), which must eventually be reconciled with the House's measure.

"The Senate bill is always different than the House bill so we'll have to go to conference and figure out the differences," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., told Politico after the House passed its Water Resources package. "I'm sure they got stuff in there that we might like and I'm sure they got stuff we don't like, so we'll have to work that out."

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved by voice vote on May 22 the Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act, sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who is also the committee's chairman. It is aimed at improving the USDOT's testing procedures for various "controlled substances" such as opioids and alcohol. The bill also calls for USDOT to establish by March 31, 2019, a publicly-available database of drug and alcohol test results reported by employers for each mode of transportation. That bill now also awaits a vote by the full Senate.

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