(H.R. 662) Legislation extending transportation programs (such as highway safety initiatives, grants for anti-drunk driving measures, and public transportation programs) that were set to expire on March 4, 2011. (This bill extended the legal authority for those programs to continue through September 30, 2011.) – On the resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to the bill
This was a vote on an amendment setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation extending transportation programs (such as highway safety initiatives, grants for anti-drunk driving measures, and public transportation programs) that were set to expire on March 4, 2011. This bill extended the legal authority for those programs to continue through September 30, 2011.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 [the underlying bill] continues the authorization of federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs through the end of this fiscal year [September 2011] at the same program funding levels established for fiscal year 2009. This authorization is essential to allow funds that had been included in transportation appropriations legislation to flow to states and local transit agencies….Should this straight extension of transportation funding not be signed into law before the March 4 deadline, the impact would be severe and immediate. A shutdown would result in immediate furloughs and suspension of payments to states, which would hamper the Federal Highway Administration's ability to pay contractors.”
While Democrats supported the underlying bill, many opposed this resolution because it essentially barred amendments. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) argued: “While I support the underlying bill, I would like to express my disappointment at the closed process. My colleague comes down here and talks about all the members are going to get a chance to come down here and they're going to get a chance to express their ideas. Well, there may be some members that may have had an amendment that might innovate something or might improve our transportation system….[The resolution] did allow one--one--amendment by Chairman Mica [R-FL, who was the chairman of the committee that drafted the underlying bill], who wrote the underlying bill that I support. You heard that correctly. The only member who is allowed to offer an amendment is the same member who wrote the bill.”
Sessions characterized the resolution differently, arguing it provided for an open debate: “This rule [resolution] provides for ample debate and opportunities for members on both sides of the aisle, the majority and minority, to make sure that they have ample time to participate, come to the floor, and express their ideas, which is what this new Republican majority is enabling members to do.”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 256-169. All 238 Republicans present and 18 Democrats voted “yea.” 169 Democrats—including a majority of progressives--voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation extending transportation programs that were set to expire on March 4, 2011.