Experts speaking at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Global Conference voiced pessimism over prospects for Congress' voting on a new transportation spending bill by the end of 2009. One observer even predicted that it may take as long as 24 to 30 months to get a final bill on the President's desk for signature, even though the current program is set to expire on Sept. 30, the end of the government's fiscal year.
"[There] will not be a transportation bill in the foreseeable future," said Martin Wachs, director of transportation, space, and technology for the consulting firm Rand Corp. Instead Wachs predicted that lawmakers will not act for at least 18 months because they will want to avoid any political fallout leading up to the 2010 midterm elections.
Both the Senate and the Obama Administration want an 18-month extension to craft a transport spending bill and would agree to stopgap spending measures to fund programs in the interim. Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, plans to file a three-month extension to keep the program funded and operating beyond Sept. 30. Originally, Oberstar was adamant about getting a bill passed before the Sept. 30 deadline.
Jack Schenendorf, an attorney at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling LLC., said that in reality an 18-month extension amounts to a 24 to 30 month extension because a new Congress convening in January 2011 will not pass a bill of this size by the end of March. The longer Congress delays, Shenendorf said, the better the chances of the debate spilling over into the 2012 general election campaign. Even then, Congressional candidates may be afraid to push for a bill because it might involve a call for tax increases that could jeopardize their election prospects, he said.