The country is slowly emerging from its summer vacation and getting back to work as autumn settles in. This is particularly true for lawmakers and policymakers in Washington, DC. While COVID-19 remains front and center in everyone’s minds, there is much work to be done before the November elections.
In Congress, there are many deadlines approaching. Funding for the federal government runs out at the end of September and, while the House of Representatives has passed appropriations bills to keep the government open, the Senate has not acted on them. It is very likely that Congress will pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open through the end of the year, but that deadline in a few months could prove to be problematic if the election is contested and any goodwill between the two parties is completely eliminated.
The second deadline Congress faces is to pass highway reauthorization for surface transportation. The FAST Act, the current version of this authorization, expires on Sept. 30. Earlier in the summer, the House of Representatives passed the massive $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, which included the INVEST in America Act to provide a 5-year, $494-billion surface transportation reauthorization. Again, the Senate has not taken up this bill nor has it proposed its own comprehensive alternative, and so it is likely that Congress will need to pass a temporary extension to keep these critical highway programs operating.
On the regulatory side, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been actively pumping out actions in advance of the November elections. We have now passed the deadline for any new regulatory action to be safe from a reversal through the Congressional Review Act if the executive and legislative branches both flip as a result of the elections. While that means no potentially controversial actions will be taken, the agency has recently announced two new proposed pilot programs, which would likely be implemented regardless of how the elections turn out. The first would study the effectiveness of adding a 3-hour pause to the hours-of-service regulations, and the second would investigate the driving performance of 18-20-year-old CDL holders in interstate commerce.
TCA is anxiously waiting to see whether deadlines are met or if proverbial cans continue to be kicked down the road until after the elections. Important trucking issues will continue to be top priorities in Washington regardless of the results, and so we are looking forward to 2021 when we expect to see more action on transportation policy.