The House passed it by a 285-140 tally. The bill had been approved by the Senate 77-20 last week. The lands bill now goes to President Obama’s desk, where it is widely expected to be signed.
Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) even mentioned the Route 66 program during a speech on the House floor:
“And from east to west, this bill will reauthorize the Route 66 Corridor Program which is essential to preserving the historical character and vibrancy of our beloved Central Avenue.”
Heinrich’s speech can be viewed on C-SPAN video here.
It was a big victory for the program and Route 66 enthusiasts in general. The well-regarded Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost-share grants for historic property preservation and other initiatives regarding the Mother Road. The program also has done exhaustive research on the road’s historic sites.
Although the recent votes made it look like a slamdunk piece of legislature, the lands bill took a tortuous route. First, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) threatened several times to block or stop it. Then, Democrats miscalculated the bill’s support in the House, where it failed by two votes earlier this month when it required a two-thirds majority to advance.
Lawmakers had to move urgently to reauthorize the program, as it was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2009. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and now-retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) were the ones who pushed having the preservation program … um … preserved. So Route 66 businesses will have the program at their disposal until at least 2019.