House Passes FY20 Transportation Appropriations

House Passes FY20 Transportation Appropriations

June 28, 2019  | Jeff Davis

June 27, 2019

This week, the House of Representatives debated and passed a five-bill package of appropriations measures that includes $87.7 billion in gross total budgetary resources for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The legislation (H.R. 3055) contains the Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Interior/Environment, Military Construction/Veterans, and Transportation-HUD bills for 2020, passed the House by a party-line vote of 227 yeas, 194 nays on June 25. (House Republicans are, by and large, sitting out the appropriations process so far until a bipartisan President-House-Senate agreement can be reached on overall spending totals, which they hope will be well below the levels assumed by House Democrats when writing the 2020 appropriations bills.)

The terms of debate on H.R. 3055 were set the week before, when the House Rules Committee on June 18 issued a special rule allowing up to 290 amendments to be offered to the bill on the House floor. The Rules Committee followed a time-honored tradition when considering which amendments to allow: defer to the wishes of the chairman of the committee that produced the bill (except where the bill invades the jurisdiction of other committees, in which case you defer to the wishes of the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction).

In this case, the chairman of the relevant Appropriations subcommittee gets treated like a full committee chairman for purposes of vetting amendments, and Transportation-HUD Subcommittee chairman David Price (D-NC) got Rules to only allow amendments that fell into two types: insignificant amendments (either of strictly local concern or else addressing issues of national concern that would only have a de minimis effect on the bill), or significant amendments that he was certain he had the votes to defeat easily.

And, as far as the insignificant amendments went, a large share of those made in order seemed to be from freshman Democrats who last year won seats that were previously held by Republicans.

This means that Rules refused to allow most of the significant amendments that would have had some kind of bipartisan support (like some of the proposed amendments to strike the various trucking policy provisions in the bill) or else would have been embarrassing to debate (like the amendment that would have forced the California High Speed Rail Authority to actually pay landowners for the land it has been seizing, which they are sometimes years late in doing).

But beyond that, Republicans were also less confrontational than expected. There were three amendments made in order by Rules that would have addressed Trump Administration objections to the USDOT portion of the bill as outlined in the June 18 Statement of Administration Policy – Woodall (R-GA) #229 on whether to count TIFIA loans as federal aid, Burgess (R-TX) #231 cutting Essential Air Service subsidies, and Perry (R-PA) #237 striking the mass transit policy changes in the bill. But Burgess and Perry were no-shows when it came time to offer their amendments, and while Woodall did offer and debate his (see below), he allowed it to be defeated by voice vote instead of asking for a roll call.

(Ed. Note: It probably helped Price that the House started amendment debate on the Transportation-HUD portion of H.R. 3055 just after 3 p.m. on a Monday, several hours before the first roll call vote of the week, which meant that members would have to take an earlier flight to DC just to be able to offer their amendment (or, for West Coast members, it would have meant flying to DC a day early in order to offer their amendment, or else taking a red-eye).)

Woodall offered his amendment (the first of the day) and noted that, as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he objected to a change in statue under T&I jurisdiction being included in an appropriations bill without the T&I Committee first voting on it. But T&I chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and his Highways and Transit Subcommittee chair, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), had already sent out a letter to colleagues supporting the provision (section 193 of the bill, which states that the face value of TIFIA loans, if they are to be repaid with local funding, must be counted as local funding for purposes of the federal-state funding split calculation for a project).

After Woodall let his amendment go down by voice vote, Price assembled two mammoth en bloc packages of amendments, the first containing 30 amendments, and the second containing 12 more amendments. Both en bloc packages were allowed to pass by voice vote with little debate, which didn’t leave very many amendments left to debate on their own.

As part of the en bloc packages, Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) said that his inherently meaningless amendment was to draw attention to the need to apportion highway funding in the future based solely on state population (see ETW’s article on that issue here) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) spoke about his inherently meaningless amendment (which he said was to draw attention to Transportation Secretary Chao’s purported special treatment of Kentucky project requests), as well as his other amendment in the en bloc that adds a redundant directive to USDOT to follow the provision of statute that moves projects through the stages of the Capital Investment Grant evaluation process.

In the second en bloc package, Kathleen Rice (D-NY) talked about her inherently meaningless amendment she said was to draw attention to FAA aircraft noise policies, and Chuy Garcia (D-IL) talked about his inherently meaningless amendment he said was to emphasize the need for better training for front-line transit workers.

After the en bloc packages were disposed of, the only really contentious transportation-specific amendment of the day came up. Peter DeFazio offered an amendment preventing DOT, during FY 2020, from issuing any permits to carry liquified natural gas by railroad tank car. DeFazio came equipped with a map showing the potential blast radius if a LNG car happened to explode on the tracks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (The Venice of America was not picked at random – DeFazio took pains to point out where President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort sat towards the edge of the blast radius.)

Transportation-HUD Subcommittee ranking member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) pointed out that Canadian safety regulators already allow LNG to be shipped by rail and that this would cause problems, but DeFazio prevailed on a mostly party-line roll call vote of 221 to 195.

On issues where no amendment could be worked out, Price held a colloquy with the member concerned (with Grace Napolitano (D-CA) on the thorny issue of whether states can levy sales taxes on aviation fuel and use the proceeds of the tax for non-airport purposes, and with Jamie Raskin (D-MD) on flight paths to Reagan National Airport).

At that point, Diaz-Balart and other Republicans just stopped asking for votes on transportation-related amendments they opposed and let them pass by voice. Those amendments included:

  • Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) #267 emphasizing that DOT officials must not use their public office for private gain (another dig at Sec. Chao’s alleged difficulties) – Republicans did not bother debating this one and just let it pass, figuring that actually debating it would just draw needless attention to it.
  • Garcia #282 increasing the BUILD grant set-aside for transit-oriented development from $15 million to $20 million – Diaz-Balart spoke in opposition, but did not call for a vote.
  • Malinowski #284 increasing the extra funding in the bill for the l0w-no emission bus grant program by $6 million – Diaz-Balart opposed the amendment just because it took its corresponding $6 million cut from the regular bus grant program, but no one called for a recorded vote.
  • Pressley (D-MA) #289, an inherently meaningless amendment she said was to encourage more BUILD grant funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects – no one bothered to speak against the amendment.

And then, after just under two-and-a-half hours of debate, all amendments to the Transportation-HUD division of H.R. 3055 had been disposed of. (They should debate this bill early on Mondays every year.)

All transportation-related amendments made in order by the Rules Committee to Division E of H.R. 3055 are listed below, along with their disposition (color-coded – green for amendments agreed to, red for amendments that did not get agreed to).

Transportation-Related Amendments Made in Order to Division E of the Second FY 2020 Minibus by H. Res. 445.

Each of the amendments below bears two numbers – the first, before the sponsor name, is the order in which they appear in the rule, which is also the order in which they can be offered on the House floor. The second number, after the sponsor name, is the order in which the amendments were filed with the Rules Committee. All page and line numbers in amendments refer to this version of the legislation. Clicking on the sponsor name takes you to the amendment text.

229. Woodall (GA) #121 – strikes section 193 of the bill, which currently amends 23 U.S.C. §603(b) to state that the proceeds of a secured loan under the TIFIA program shall be considered to be part of the non-Federal share of project costs required under this title or chapter 53 of title 49, if the loan is repayable from non-Federal funds – amendment failed by voice vote.

230. DeSaulnier (CA) #46REVISED – decreases the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Research and Technology by $2 million and then immediately restores the cut, which the amendment sponsor says is to support a study on the impacts climate change has already had and will continue to have on all modes of transportation – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

231. Burgess (TX) #47 – reduces the appropriation for the discretionary portion of Essential Air Service subsidies by $50 million, from the $175 million in the bill to the $125 million requested by the Administration – amendment not offered.

233. DeFazio (OR) #9REVISED – adds a new section preventing DOT, during FY 2020, from carrying out section 4(b) of Executive Order 13868 or to issue a special permit under 49 CFR 107.105 that allows liquified natural gas to move by rail tank car – amendment agreed to by a roll call vote of 221 yeas, 195 nays (vote tally sheet here).

236. Norton (DC) #110 – reduces the appropriation for FAA Operations by one dollar and then instantly restores the cut, which the amendment sponsor says is to urge the FAA to prioritize efforts to combat airplane and helicopter noise – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

237. Perry (PA) #51 – strikes section 164 of the bill, which currently does four things: (a) suspends the Rostenkowski Test funding reduction of Mass Transit Account funding, (b) prevents FTA from requiring any CIG project from having a CIG contribution below 50 percent, (c) prevents FTA from determining a maximum CIG share of a project until it has been in Engineering for at least 100 days, and (d) prevents FTA from requiring a CIG project have a greater than 50 percent likelihood of being completed within its cost estimate. – amendment not offered.

239. Meadows (NC) #109 – increases the set-aside in Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses for the Office of the Deputy Secretary by $1 million and then immediately cancels the increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to study economic authority certification to facilitate the operation of U.S.-based unmanned aircraft manufacturers and operators who receive venture capital and who carry cargo within U.S. airspace – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

240. Doggett (TX) #57 – within the FAA Operations account, the amendment transfers $7.5 million from the Finance and Management Activities PPA to the Aviation Safety PPA – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

242. Jackson Lee (TX) #103REVISED – decreases the appropriation for BUILD grants by $2 million and then immediately restores the reduction – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

245. Langevin (RI) #31 – reduces the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Research and Technology by $800 thousand and increases the independent Access Board appropriation in title III of the bill by the same amount, which the amendment sponsor says is to fund the study of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems as described in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

247. Lipinski (IL) #38 – REVISED – increases the bill’s appropriation for the FRA CRISI grant program by $1 million and then instantly cancels the increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to instruct FRA to include preventive maintenance as an eligible capital expense for grants awarded to projects deploying Positive Train Control (PTC) – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

249. Bost (IL) #113 – adds a new section prohibiting any DOT or HUD funds provided by the bill from being used in contravention of Executive Order 13858 (President Trump’s January 2010 order strengthening Buy America preferences) – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

250. Foster (IL) #33 – reduces the appropriation for BUILD grants by one dollar, then instantly restores the cut, which the amendment sponsor says is to “highlight the disparity between State apportionments” – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

252. Keating (MA) #88 – REVISED – reduces the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses by $5 million and then immediately restores the reduction, which the amendment sponsor says is to demonstrate support for the design of projects to replace federally owned bridge infrastructure that is designated as an evacuation route – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

254. Sewell (AL) #99 – REVISED – increases the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses by one dollar and then immediately cancels the increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to instruct the Department to prioritize funding and resources for the modernization and expansion of non-emergency medical transportation programs amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

255. Burchett (TN) #14 – REVISED –increases the general fund appropriation for federal-aid highways by $12 million (all of which goes to the set-aside for STBGP, hazard elimination, grade crossings and charging/EV infrastructure) and reduces the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses by the same amount – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

256. Bera (CA) #41 – REVISED – increases the bill’s general fund appropriation for low-no emission bus funding (part of the overall GF transit formula grant supplement) by $2 million (increasing the low-no set-aside from $94 million to $96 million, and thus the overall appropriation from $750 million to $752 million), offset by a $2 million cut in Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

257. Spano (FL) #96 – REVISED – within the FAA Operations appropriation, increases the Commercial Space Transportation PPA by $8.1 million, offset with an $8.1 million cut in the Finance and Management Activities PPA – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

259. Takano (CA) #29 – adds a new section preventing any FY 2020 funding in the bill from being used by Amtrak in contravention of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

260. Adams (NC) #100 – REVISED –increases the appropriation for FAA Facilities and Equipment by $2 million, with a corresponding reduction in the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Research and Technology, which the amendment sponsor says is for increasing availability of funds for replacing Terminal Air Traffic Control Facilities– amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

264. Maloney (NY) #107 – decreases the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Transportation Planning, Research and Development by $1 million and then immediately restores the reduction, which the amendment sponsor says is to encourage DOT to research implementing connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle technologies at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

265. Rice (NY) #24 – increases the appropriation for FAA Research, Engineering and Development and then immediately cancels the increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to support the research and development of aircraft technologies that reduce aviation noise – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

266. Plaskett (VI) #87 – REVISED – in the bill, both the BUILD grant program and the Transit Infrastructure Grant appropriation have set-asides for “areas of persistent poverty,” and this amendment clarifies that areas in U.S. territories and possessions are eligible for such funding – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

267. Krishnamoorthi (IL) #32 – prevents any funding in the bill from being used in contravention of 5 CFR 2635.702, which prohibits the use of public office for private gain – amendment agreed to by voice vote.

269. Jayapal (WA) #82 – REVISED – reduces the obligation limitation on the Airport Improvement Program by $2 million and then immediately restores the cut, which the amendment sponsor says is intended to demonstrate support for the need for additional funds toward airplane noise mitigation for communities – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

270. Jayapal (WA) #83 – increases the appropriation for the USDOT Inspector General by $1 million, offset by a $1 million reduction in the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses, which the amendment sponsor says is to support the FAA safety certification process audit. (Legislative text is identical to Malinowski #286, below.) – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

272. Carbajal (CA) #106 – increases funding for the resiliency study in section 105 of the bill by $500 thousand and then immediately cancels the increase – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

273. Wexton (VA) #1 – REVISED –increases funding for FAA Facilities and Equipment by $7 million and then immediately cancels that increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to to continue the Remote Tower Pilot Program. – amendment agreed to by voice vote.

274. Garcia (IL) #2 – REVISEDwithin the FTA Technical Assistance and Training appropriation, increases the set-aside for the frontline workforce development study by $1 million and then immediately cancels that increase, which the amendment sponsor says is to urge FTA to prioritize programs for front line bus and rail transit workers – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #8.

277. Schrier (WA) #19 – reduces the appropriation for NHTSA Operations and Research by $1 million and then immediately restores the funding, which the amendment sponsor says is to support state efforts aimed at reducing distracted driving, properly securing vehicle loads, and other highways safety programs – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

278. Escobar (TX) #22 – REVISED – increases the Airport Improvement Program set-aside for Small Community Air Service Development by $5 million and then immediately cancels the increase – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

279. Escobar (TX) #23 – REVISED – increases the BUILD grant set-aside for planning grants in areas of persistent poverty by $5 million and then immediately cancels the increase amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

280. Porter (CA) #30 – REVISED – increases the appropriation of general fund highway money and the set-aside for STBGP and other formula items by $10 million and reduces Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses by the same amount. The amendment sponsor says this is for additional EV and hydrogen fuel charging station infrastructure – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

281. Phillips (MN) #42 – decreases the appropriation for FTA Capital Investment Grants by $1 million and then immediately restores the funding, which the amendment sponsor says is to “invest in critical transit projects” – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

282. Garcia (IL) #59 – REVISED – within the BUILD grant appropriation, increases the minimum set-aside for planning grants for transit, transit-oriented development and multimodal projects from $15 million to $20 million – amendment agreed to by voice vote.

283. Malinowski (NJ) #72 – provides that no funding in the bill can be used in contravention of 49 U.S.C. §5309(d)(2), regarding advancement of Capital Investment Grant projects from the project development phase to the engineering phase – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

284. Malinowski (NJ) #73 REVISED –within the bill’s $750 million appropriation for Transit Infrastructure Grants, increases the set-aside for low-emission and no-emission buses by $6 million and offsets the funding by a $6 million reductions in both the competitive bus grant program set-aside – amendment agreed to by voice vote.

285. Malinowski (NJ) #74 – reduces the PHMSA Pipeline Safety appropriation by $1 million and then immediately restores the cut, which the amendment sponsor says is to enhance PHMSA’s Community Liaison Services’ ability to respond to pipeline-related inquiries from community members amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

286. Malinowski (NJ) #75 – increases the appropriation for the USDOT Inspector General by $1 million, offset by a $1 million reduction in the appropriation for Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses. (Legislative text is identical to Jayapal #270, above.) – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

287. Craig (MN) #94 – increases the appropriation for FAA Research, Engineering and Development by $1.5 million and then immediately cancels the increase, which the amendment sponsor says is o address the concerns of communities affected by aircraft noise to urge the FAA to respond fully and completely to the requirements in the FAA Reauthorization Act pertaining to noise reduction – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

289. Pressley (MA) #105 –decreases the appropriation for BUILD grants by $1 million and then immediately restores the reduction, which the amendment sponsor says is to reinforce the importance of robust investments in safe, reliant and efficient transit options including commuter rails, subway, buses, bike and pedestrian paths – amendment agreed to by voice vote.

290. Finkenauer (IA) #112 – increases the appropriation for the National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau by $1 million, with a corresponding cut in Office of the Secretary – Salaries and Expenses, which the amendment sponsor says it to ensure rural communities can get technical assistance when seeking federal transportation infrastructure financing opportunities – amendment agreed to by voice vote as part of en bloc package #7.

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