Today, on the Senate floor, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid urged Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill to the Senate floor for consideration prior to the end of the April work period.
Remarks as prepared:
“Yesterday, Senators Baucus, Inouye, Jeffords, Sarbanes, and I sent a letter to Majority Leader Frist requesting that he bring the surface transportation reauthorization bill to the floor for consideration prior to the completion of this April work period.
“As we all know, the current Federal surface transportation program expired 18 months ago, and the program has operated under a series of short term extensions since then, with the latest set to expire on May 31st of this year. While these extensions have helped the Federal program limp along, they have denied states the ability to make long-term transportation planning decisions essential to the continued maintenance and improvement of the system. In addition, the lack of a permanent reauthorization bill has caused many to states to slow or stop entirely progress on many important transportation projects.
“According to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the uncertainty caused by the short term extensions has cost billions of dollars in project delays and thousands of jobs.
“We must provide states with the certainty that a long-term reauthorization provides. Mr. President, I have here with me letters from over 20 groups ranging from state and local governments to the major trade associations all urging immediate consideration of this important bill. I ask unanimous consent that these letters be entered into the official record at this time, as well as my letter to the Majority Leader.
“Mr. President, I stand ready and committed to moving this process forward in the bipartisan spirit that this bill has always enjoyed. I urge the Majority Leader to bring the surface transportation reauthorization bill up for floor consideration before the end of the April work period for the good of the country and the workers that so desperately depend upon its future.”
Letter to Majority Leader Frist:
April 14, 2005
The Honorable Bill Frist
United States Senate
Dear Majority Leader:
We write to request floor consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill prior to the completion of this April work period.
As you know, a well-maintained surface transportation system is critical to our nation’s economy. Long-term transportation planning is essential to the continued maintenance and improvement of the system. Unfortunately, for the past 18 months, the federal surface transportation program has operated under a series of short-term extensions denying the states the ability to make and to execute long-term transportation plans.
Because of this continuing uncertainty, many states have had to slow or to stop entirely progress on many important transportation projects. Further extensions will only exacerbate these delays costing billions of dollars in project delays and thousands of jobs.
The current program extension expires on May 31, 2005. In order to complete work on this important legislation before this deadline, the full Senate must consider the measure prior to the end of the April work period. Recognizing this urgency, each of the committees of jurisdiction will be ready for Senate floor debate in the near future.
We are ready and committed to moving this process forward in the bipartisan spirit this bill has traditionally enjoyed. We look forward to an open and vigorous debate of the surface transportation reauthorization before the end of this April work period.
Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Leader
Senator Max Baucus
Senator Jim Jeffords
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Paul Sarbanes