Senate Commerce Approves Multi-Year Transportation Bill with Bipartisan Provisions

July 15, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved a multi-year transportation bill, including a bipartisan passenger rail safety bill, and a host of multiple amendments offering critical regulatory and consumer protection reforms by a vote of 13 to 11. By tradition, the Commerce Committee bill (S. 1732) will advance in combination with S. 1647, the DRIVE Act, previously approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and component legislation from other Senate committees on the Senate floor to form legislation commonly referred to as “The Highway Bill” or the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.” Commerce Committee chairman, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement on committee passage:

“Today, the committee incorporated important bipartisan safety enhancements and approved a bill that enacts critical regulatory reforms,” said Thune. “We worked hard to include input from both sides of the aisle, and we now have a bill that can move forward towards enacting a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill versus passing additional short-term extensions.”

Key changes to S. 1732 adopted by the Committee today include:

  • Increased funds for auto safety – Authorizes funding increases for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) vehicle safety efforts in line with those proposed by the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, provided that the Department of Transportation Inspector General certifies that certain reforms have been implemented. (Thune substitute amendment)
  • Higher penalties for auto safety violations – Raises penalties for safety violations on the auto industry from $7,000 per incident to $14,000 and doubles the overall penalty cap from $35 million to $70 million, provided that NHTSA implements certain reforms called for by the DOT Inspector General and conducts a previously required rulemaking process on assessing penalties. (Thune substitute amendment)
  • Rental Car Recall – Includes a prohibition on rental car firms renting a vehicle under recall that has not yet been repaired. (McCaskill amendment 1)
  • Hair Testing – Adds bipartisan legislation that allows trucking companies the option to use hair testing rather than urinalysis for employee drug testing. (Manchin 3)

In addition, at the markup, a Democratic vehicle safety title alternative based on S. 1743 (Blumenthal, Markey, Nelson amendment 1) was rejected by a bipartisan vote of 8-16.

Below is a summary of action on agenda items:

  1. Passed S. 1732, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, Sponsors: U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) with Thune substitute amendment, 13-11 roll call vote
    1. Passed in bloc by voice vote: Ayotte amendments 1, 2, 3; Blunt amendment 1; Booker amendment 2; Cantwell amendment 4; Daines amendment 3; Gardner amendment 2; Gardner-Markey amendment 1; Klobuchar amendments 1, 2, 3; Manchin amendment 2; McCaskill amendment 1; Markey amendment 7; Schatz-Heller-Markey-Udall amendment 1; Sullivan amendments 1, 2; Wicker amendment 3
    2. Nelson amendment 1 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    3. Motion to strike the Port Performance Act Provision by Sen. Booker not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    4. Not agreed to by voice vote: Blumenthal amendment 4, 9; Booker amendment 5; Markey amendment 2
    5. Passed by voice vote: Manchin amendment 3
    6. Blumenthal amendment 6 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    7. Markey amendment 4 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    8. Blumenthal-Markey-Nelson amendment 1 not agreed to, 8-16 roll call vote
    9. Blumenthal amendment 2 not agreed to, 8-16 roll call vote
    10. Blumenthal amendment 3 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    11. Markey amendment 1 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote
    12. Blumenthal amendment 11 not agreed to, 9-15 roll call vote
    13. Blumenthal amendment 13 not agreed to, 10-14 roll call vote
    14. Manchin amendment 4 not agreed to, 11-13 roll call vote