Congress Barrels Toward Highway Funding Deadline, August Recess

AP Photo
AP Photo

Congress is barreling toward recess, but before lawmakers leave town they must pass a transportation funding bill.

Monday night the Senate voted to advance its six-year highway legislation, including an extension of the Export-Import Bank attached. Conservatives are, however, staunchly opposed to Ex-Im’s reauthorization and House Leadership has indicated it will not take up the Senate’s bill.

The bank’s authorization expired at the end of June, however there has been a successful effort to revive the legislation via the highway bill in the Senate, much to the chagrin of conservatives who criticize the credit agency as corporate welfare.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the House would not be bringing the Senate’s highway bill to the floor.

“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” McCarthy told reporters.

The House’s alternative is a five-month extension the body passed earlier this year, to allow more time to work on a long-term, fully funded transportation bill. Instead of the Senate’s version, the California Republican urged the Senate to take up the House-passed short-term bill. The short-term bill does not include the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization.

“I just want the Senate to get it done, so jobs are not in jeopardy, transportation is not in jeopardy,” McCarthy told reporters according to The Hill. “It was a bipartisan, overwhelming vote, and it puts us on a path to have a long-term highway bill that is fully paid for.”

House Speaker John Boehner confirmed Tuesday morning that the House plans to vote on a three-month federal highway extension before lawmakers leave for recess. He noted that the goal remains a long-term highway bill.

“I want a long-term highway bill that’s fully paid for,” Boehner told reporters. “That’s been the goal all year and that continues to be the goal. We’ve been trying to do this for four years. It’s time to get it across the finish line.”

Boehner shrugged off the apparent divide between the House and Senate leadership.

“There are times when the Senate has to do what the Senate has to do and their are times when the House has to do what it has to do, but if you’ll notice it doesn’t happen very often. It’s just happening this week,” he said.

The House is slated to leave town for August recess mid-week, the Senate’s work period is scheduled to continue into next week. Highway funding expires on July 31.

While the House and Senate leadership is divided on the path forward, neither side wants to see highway funding expire.

“It’s not shutting down,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Politico. “We’ll be all right.”


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