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House Passes Five-Month Highway Bill Patch

July 16, 2015, by David Cullen - Also by this author

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) contends five-month patch will provide time to legislate a "fiscally responsible' long-term highway bill.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) contends five-month patch will provide time to legislate a "fiscally responsible' long-term highway bill.

The House has punted. Republican leaders on July 15 pushed through an $8-billion plus measure to fund highway and infrastructure expenditures through December 18 as Congress scrambles to come up with a long- or short-term solution before the extension of the MAP-21 infrastructure bill passed by Congress in May expires at the end of this month.

The Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II (H.R. 3038) was passed 312-119 despite Democrats objecting that Congress should be determining how to pay for a longer-term bill rather than kicking the can down the road yet again.

The bill does not include an increase in federal fuel taxes. Instead, per news reports, the funding would be obtained mainly by applying $3 billion of savings from Transportation Security Administration fees and $5 billion derived from tax-compliance measures.

However, Senate GOP leaders remain adamant that they will keep pushing for a longer-term surface transportation package. As reported by The Hill newspaper, Senate Republicans have said they want at minimum to ensure the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent beyond the 2016 election and want to see a multi-year bill passed.

Complicating matters for the highway bill of all things is a tussle over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which is expected to be a provision in the Senate’s infrastructure-funding bill.

While the bank measure has significant support on Capitol Hill, it is adamantly opposed by some conservative lawmakers.

Their resistance may result in the Senate acting at the eleventh hour to present the House with a longer-term highway bill fitted with a rider that keeps going the Export-Import Bank.

In a statement, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, contended that H.R. 3038 “gives Chairman Paul Ryan and the [House] Ways and Means Committee time to continue working on the progress they have made to fund a long-term transportation bill that is fiscally responsible.”

He added that the funding enabled by the House bill is “fully paid for and will not add to the nation’s debt.”

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