Administration Issues Veto Threat While Next Transportation Deadline Looms

On June 2, the White House issued a threat to veto the Fiscal Year 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill as it is currently written before consideration in the House of Representatives. The full text of the Administration’s policy statement is viewable here.

Within the $55.3 billion bill, the Administration specifically objects to the proposed reductions in funding for surface transportation programs including Amtrak and competitive TIGER grants for infrastructure improvements. Policy riders which the Administration objects to include restrictions on travel to Cuba and additional loosening of trucking size-and-weight and hours of service regulations. Regarding the House provisions on the trucking provisions, the statement of policy states that “the bill imposes criteria that would in all likelihood be impossible to meet, therefore preventing critical safety provisions from taking effect. This provision combined with the troubling changes to truck size and weight limit could significantly compromise safety on our Nation’s roads.”

While the veto threat has no impact on the current extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which will next lapse on July 31, 2015, the threat indicates the gulf between the Administration and Congressional leadership in transportation priorities. The House of Representatives will consider the spending bill (known as the T-HUD bill), this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its own draft of the spending bill. Both chambers of Congress must come to an agreement before a bill is sent to the President for approval. While Fiscal Year 2016 begins October 1, 2015, it is unlikely that any agreement on spending for the Department of Transportation or other agencies will be reached until closer to the end of the calendar year.