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With its fourth stopgap in place, Congress poised to pick up 2024 spending next week

Congress is expected to begin voting next week on the first set of fiscal 2024 budget bills – five months into the fiscal year – after the parties reached another short-term deal to avert a government shutdown Friday.

The two chambers on Thursday passed a stopgap bill that extends the deadline for four spending bills, including Transportation-Housing, until March 8, and the remaining eight until March 22.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign before Friday’s midnight funding deadline.

It’s the fourth continuing resolution passed by Congress since the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1. The lack of solid appropriations poses challenges for issuers and transportation officials, lobbyists said.

“Without knowing the federal government’s spending levels, local officials are faced with uncertainty,” said Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities.

“Without knowing the federal government’s spending levels, local officials are faced with uncertainty about how much they can count on from the federal government as they formulate their city budgets,” said Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, in a statement. The NLC is set to convene in March for its upcoming Congressional City Conference, where “budget certainty will be among the top issues our members will raise with their congressional delegations,” Anthony said.

On the transportation side, full-year 2024 appropriations will likely mean an increase in “core highway and public transportation programs” assuming authorized funding levels are met, noted the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. On Thursday, the Federal Transit Administration released $9.9 billion in public transit funding, representing the first five months of 2024, to help transit agencies with 2024 planning despite the lack of a formal budget.

Negotiations over the first legislative package, covering the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-Housing bills, are reportedly finished and the House could release text of final bills as soon as this weekend. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is aiming for a Wednesday vote.

The second tranche of bills, including Financial Services, Homeland Security, Labor-Education and others, will be taken up before March 22.

Congress reached a deal for $1.66 trillion of topline 2024 spending on Jan. 7, including $773 billion for non-defense discretionary spending and $886 billion for defense.

As lawmakers hammer out current-year spending, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is looking ahead to its priorities in fiscal 2025. The committee met Thursday to approve a “views and estimates” report for 2025.

Priorities for the upcoming year include launching the process for the next surface transportation bill when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act expires in 2026, said committee chair Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. Other priorities include passage of a five-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill and a two-year Water Resources Development Act bill, Graves said.

Noting that nearly half of the $1.2 trillion in IIJA funding comes under the committee’s purview, Graves said that oversight of the funds and the administration’s “overreach” on issues like greenhouse gas emissions will remain top priorities.

“While IIJA provided historic levels of funding to address America’s infrastructure needs, stakeholders have previously raised concerns that increased inflation has undermined those funding increased,” lawmakers said in the report. Inflation has moderated since last summer, but continues to present a challenge, the report said. “The committee will conduct extensive oversight to monitor the disbursement of the IIJA funds to ensure the [Department of Transportation” complies with Congressional intent, as well as the effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”

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