Democrats and Republicans ended sessions to enjoy a five-week break while none of the 12 annual spending bills required to continue government operations have yet been passed. One of the most hotly contested bills before Congress is the Transportation Bill, which failed to get funding from either Congressional house. Republicans and Democrats are at a stalemate over the 2013 spending bill, meaning the issue of sequestration could continue to plague the nation into the fiscal year 2014.
The Transportation Bill is necessary to fund government projects including highway repairs and development, aviation projects (including the possible furlough of air traffic control personnel), passenger railway projects, and other transportation projects. Republicans blocked the latest version of the bill, saying the proposed funding exceeded spending limits set by both parties in earlier agreements.
Republican leaders in the house called off a vote on the $44 billion measure before them, saying the measure lacked the support to pass. Stan Collender, a former congressional budget aid who now serves as managing partner of Qorvis Communications LLC commented that this is the political equivalent of taking one’s ball and going home. According to House speaker John Boehner (Republican, Ohio), it’s unlikely Congress will be able to finish these bills when Congress meets again in September, and current emergency funding will likely continue into next year.
Transportation continues to draw some of the biggest fights between Democrats and Republicans, especially after President Obama threatened to force air traffic controllers into furlough. Republicans allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to shift funds to prevent these furloughs, but there is nothing in current law that would stop President Obama from reimposing the furloughs and shutting down control towers at small and mid-sized airports around the country.
Funding for Amtrak is also hotly contested, an issue that could cripple transportation in the highly populated northeast. Amtrak officials declined to comment on the issue at this time.