Congress Returns: ASCE’s Lame-Duck To-Do List

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When Congress returns on Tuesday, November 21, they face a post-election “lame-duck” session, facing a funding deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown and other lingering issues. Additionally, both parties are conducting leadership elections this week, parts of which will linger into weeks ahead. Party leadership, new Committee Chairs, and Ranking Members will all need to be selected in these leadership elections.

Among the pending issues of interest:

Appropriation – There are only 22 days (as of Friday 11/16) before the current extension on programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation as well as Housing and Urban Development expires. Due to this tight deadline, the Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill must be passed during this lame-duck session. Earlier this year, the Senate passed this title through a minibus on August 1, and the House has yet to take action on the measure. House and Senate Appropriations Committees have named conferees to hash out the differences in the legislation, and ASCE’s government relations team has been actively engaged to ensure key transportation infrastructure priorities are properly funded. We look forward to our continued work with appropriators during this lame duck session to make sure this gets passed the finish line.

Hazards Mitigation – The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which was created in 1977 to coordinate federal efforts on research, mitigation, and responses to earthquakes. The program’s last authorization expired in 2009 and while NEHRP continues to operate, the focus of the involvement of some federal agencies has been lost. ASCE has worked with Congress and other stakeholders to get the program reauthored. On September 27th, the Senate passed S. 1768, which would reauthorize NEHRP with a number of small changes supported by ASCE. ASCE is working closely with members and staff of the U.S. House of Representative in hopes of completing work on legislation following the election.

Additionally, the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) short-term extension expires on November 30; the program is currently operating under its seventh short-term extension since its expiration on September 30, 2017.

Parks – The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired on September 30 and needs to be reauthorized. Established in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas leases to conserve national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges. It also provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. Earlier this fall, the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources passed S. 569 to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and to remove it from the annual congressional appropriations cycle, ultimately requiring mandatory funding each year. The House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 502, which would permanently reauthorize the LWCF, but would not require mandatory funding.  Each chamber still needs to vote on these bills.  ASCE supports reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF as a way to raise our 2017 Infrastructure Report Card public park’s grade of “D+,” and we submitted a Statement for the Record to the Senate in support of the program earlier this fall.

As these issues unfold, ASCE will keep you informed as they develop. Stay tuned for Key Alerts asking you to reach out to your Members of Congress to help get anyone of these across the finish line before Congress adjourns the 115th Session.

 

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