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Oberstar Says Senator’s Action Threatens DOT Shutdown

from Transport Topics

A procedural maneuver in the U.S. Senate that blocked passage a long-term extension of federal highway funding could shut down several Department of Transportation agencies, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, beginning Tuesday, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said last Friday.

He said in a hastily arranged news conference that in a “rather arbitrary and willful action,” Sen. James Bunning (R-Ky.) failed to join the rest of the Senate in giving unanimous consent to a bill to reauthorize funding for federal highway programs though Dec. 31.

Oberstar said that as a result, an estimated 4,000 employees working for FMCSA, theFederal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could be furloughed starting Tuesday.

States also would not be reimbursed for their share of federal highway funds, he said.

Oberstar said Bunning also threatened to filibuster the bill and that the Senate had to adjourn Friday because senators could not find a way to counter Bunning’s actions.

He said he was uncertain how long it might take Congress to find a procedural maneuver to pass the highway funding bill, but hinted it could take more than a week.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Congress called on Congress to quickly pass the long-term extension.

“The shutdown of the federal highway program means that thousands of jobs are at risk,” said Janet Kavinoky, the chamber’s director of transportation and infrastructure.

In response to a question, Oberstar suggested the Obama Administration andTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood were in favor of continued DOT funding.

“When we agree on a funding mechanism, we believe the [Obama] administration will be dancing along with us,” Oberstar said.

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