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House Passes Short-Term Highway Extension

July 29, 2015, by Deborah Lockridge - Also by this author

The House late Wednesday passed a short-term extension to keep federal highway funding going until October 29, right before members left on August recess, leaving the Senate to deal with before the looming Friday deadline.

The vote was 385-34, and the Senate is expected to pass it this week.

The House and Senate have been battling for weeks, with neither willing to budge in a game of "chicken."

The House had already passed a five-month extension, while the Senate as late as earlier this week was still trying to get its six-year plan (which actually only paid for three years) passed. House leadership had said it would not even take up the Senate bill, and the Senate bill's authors criticized House leadership for refusing to delay their August recess to work on the bill.

According to published reports, the Senate agreed to take up the three-month extension in exchange for promises from the House that a larger funding fix will be worked on soon after the August recess. The House has said it will develop a multiyear highway bill of its own in early September.

The Highway Trust Fund has been insolvent since 2008, limping along on transfers from the Treasury while Congress keeps kicking the can down the road.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on the Senate floor expressed lawmakers' frustration with the lack of progress. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “While I feel I have no choice but to support a short-term patch to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from expiring after this week, this short-term approach is not the answer. It needs to stop being the norm. It epitomizes Congress’s failure to govern sensibly.”

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