Yesterday, the House passed and the President signed a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep government programs operating through December 11, 2015. The Senate passed the CR on Wednesday. The ‘clean CR’ sets funding at current FY2015 levels. While a short term shut down was possible, it would not have had an immediate impact on the MCSAP program, as the transportation program authority was extended through the end of October earlier this summer. While the CR averts a government shutdown, it is only a temporary reprieve. It is unlikely that the hurdles to passing a full funding bill will all be resolved before December 11, 2015.
With the issue of FY2016 funding resolved for the time being, Congress can turn its attention to the highway bill. Authority for transportation programs runs out on October 29, 2015, leaving little time for the House and Senate to negotiate and approve a final package. The Senate has passed their highway bill, the DRIVE Act. Meanwhile, work continues behind the scenes on the House bill. No markup has been scheduled by the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and it is unclear what the process will be, once the House is ready to proceed.
Funding remains the major challenge to passing a long term transportation bill. The Senate DRIVE Act is six year policy bill with only three years of funding. It’s unclear at this point how many years the House proposal will be and if the House will follow the Senate and provide authority and policy for unfunded years. Discussions on using some sort of tax reform as a pay for continue, but the concept does not have support from several key players.