Representative John Mica, chair of the Transportation Committee, announced Wednesday morning that his committee, and subsequently the full House, would not act on the bill in December as previously announced.
It was becoming clear the full House would not have time to debate a transportation bill this year. There is a large volume of critical, and many would argue more important, legislation the House wants to address in the few remaining days of the 2011 session: the remaining 2012 appropriations bills, looming expiration of extended unemployment benefits and the payroll tax reduction, and scheduled reduction in Medicare payments to health care providers.
The Transportation Committee still could have passed a bill. But then it would have sat there for a month or two, to be picked apart by stakeholders. Committee leadership probably prefers to wait and pass the bill when it looks like it could then be acted on by the full House within a short period of time.
So when might we see legislative text and Committee action? The earliest is likely the week of January 16. But the House is in session for only two days that week. The following week they’re in session for just three days. At this point I think it’s more likely we see bill text in early to mid February.
Over in the Senate, there’s still a good chance the transit, rail and safety sections will be debated in and passed by the relevant Committees before Congress recesses for the holidays. It’s unlikely, however, that the Finance Committee will be able to agree on mechanisms to fully fund the transportation bill before the holidays.