By Dean Franks, vice president, congressional affairs, ARTBA

Congress wasted no time tackling several must-pass issues during its first week back on Capitol Hill after the summer recess. A bipartisan compromise package sent Sept. 8 to President Donald Trump includes:

  • $15 billion in emergency funds to assist Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts;
  • a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through Dec. 8.; and
  • an increased cap on the national debt that allows the U.S. Treasury Department to borrow money to supplement tax revenues and pay for spending over the next few months.

The CR extends the FY 2017 appropriations law set to expire Sept. 30. Congress has yet to send President Trump any of the 12 annual spending bills for FY 2018, and therefore an extension was necessary in order to prevent a government shutdown. The package came together after a widely-publicized agreement between President Trump and Democratic leadership, which was criticized by many Republicans. The president is expected to sign the measure soon.

Also this week, the House began debate on a package of eight remaining FY 2018 appropriations bills, including its version of Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD).

It would include full-funding at FAST Act authorized levels for all Highway Trust Fund-supported highway and transit programs, and $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, a capital grant program largely used for airport runways and taxiways. It would cut transit capital programs by $650 million and eliminate the Obama-era TIGER grant program.

The Trump administration has criticized the bill for continuing the transit capital program, which the president’s budget proposed to fully phase out. However, the administration said it would ultimately support the House bill if sent to the president.

A Senate committee version of the THUD bill fully funds the highway and transit programs at FAST Act authorized levels, provides a $4 increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) ticket tax dedicated for airport spending, and retains the TIGER grant program with $550 million in funding.

The House previously moved four other appropriations bills. Action on the dozen FY 2018 spending bills will shift to the Senate once the House passes its package. The Senate has yet to consider any of the appropriations measures in the full chamber.

ARTBA staff will keep working to ensure the full FY 2018 FAST Act-authorized funding levels are met and the $4 PFC increase and funding for the TIGER program are included in the final law.