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Eno Transportation Weekly

Senate OK’s 3-Week HTF Extension and Confirms Feinberg as FRA Administrator

October 29, 2015 – 3:50 p.m.

The U.S. Senate has approved H.R. 3819, the three-week Highway Trust Fund extension through November 20 which also carries a three-year extension of the positive train control (PTC) implementation deadline, by voice vote, clearing the measure for President Obama’s signature. The Senate then immediately confirmed the nomination of Sarah Feinberg to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked unanimous consent that H.R. 3819 (which passed the House by voice vote yesterday) be amended to reduce the duration of the blanket PTC deadline extension in section 1302 of the bill from three years to one year (to December 31, 2016). But Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) objected to Boxer’s request, noting that the PTC extension language had been carefully worked out between House Republicans, House Democrats and Senate Republicans and that modifying the provision would kill the bill and force a Highway Trust Fund shutdown at midnight on Thursday night. Boxer then withdrew her objection and allowed the bill to pass by a voice vote (she, or any other Senator on the floor, could have called for a roll call vote, but no one did so).

At the same time that the Senate was dealing with the highway/PTC bill and the Feinberg nomination, the House of Representatives was approving a procedural setup for the bipartisan budget agreement. The House passed a special rule by a vote of 392 to 37 expediting consideration of the budget agreement. Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) then moved that the House accept the budget agreement, and the final vote on that should be underway by 5 p.m. today, allowing the Senate to pass the bill before next Tuesday and void a default on the public debt.

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