Congress is Back in Session

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Congress returned to Washington this week with a long to-do list of must finish items, including passing a Hurricane Harvey relief package, raising the debt ceiling, and reauthorizing both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Both the House and the Senate hit the ground running. The Senate passed a Hurricane Harvey relief package that tagged on many of the imminent items, including raising the debt ceiling, funding the government through a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 8, and extending the National Flood Insurance Program for three months. The House, which had previously passed a bill solely focused on the relief package, passed the Senate’s bill on Friday morning. The $15.25 billion disaster aid package includes $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF); $7.4 billion in emergency funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); and $450 million for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan program. The bill is expected to be signed by President Trump quickly.

Clearing many of these items, both chambers still have much more business to attend to before the end of the month, and additional work looms before the end of the year in light of the new extensions through December.

Here are the infrastructure-related to-dos:

Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations

The appropriations process involves Congress working through 12 different funding packages that together make up the federal government’s budget for a year. So far, none of the bills have received final approval, which is why Congress elected to pass a CR, giving them an additional two months to work through appropriations.

This week, the House began consideration of H.R. 3354, “The Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act,” which combines eight of the 12 in to a single bill.  Specifically, H.R. 3354 would combine the following bills:

  • H.R. 3354, Interior and Environment
  • H.R. 3268, Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food & Drug Administration
  • H.R. 3267, Commerce, Justice, and Science (includes NASA, NOAA)
  • H.R. 3280, Financial Services and General Government
  • H.R. 3355, Homeland Security
  • H.R. 3358, Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education
  • H.R. 3362, State and Foreign Operations
  • H.R. 3353, Transportation, Housing & Urban Development

While considering the FY18 Interior and Environment portion of the larger appropriations bill this week, Congressman John Katko (R-NY) offered an amendment to restore $250 million to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. Nearly 240 million Americans – 76% of the population – rely on the nation’s 14,748 treatment plants for wastewater sanitation. We are concerned that a decrease in funding for the CWSRF program would have a negative impact on wastewater treatment plants in our nation, putting public health and the environment at great risk. ASCE Key Contacts were notified and sprang into action contacting their Members of Congress. Our members’ hard work paid off, and the amendment passed by voice vote.

On July 27, the House passed H.R. 3219, the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018,” which combined the other four regular appropriations bills:

  • H.R. 3219, Defense
  • H.R. 3266, Energy and Water
  • H.R. 3162, Legislative Branch
  • H.R. 2998, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hill, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved eight of the 12 bills, including the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill; the Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education appropriations bill; the Legislative Branch appropriations bill; the Transportation, Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill; the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill; the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill; the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food & Drug Administration appropriations bill; and the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. Additional markups are scheduled in the coming weeks.

FAA Reauthorization

The current FAA bill, which has had a few short-term extensions in the past year, is set to expire on September 30. Earlier this summer, both the House and Senate worked on FAA reauthorization bills, but neither bill has made it to the respective floors for a vote. A part of the hold-up has been a controversial policy to privatize Air Traffic Control; this provision is included in the House bill but not the Senate version. A vote on the House bill is expected during the week of September 13.

 

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