Two top Senators reached agreement Tuesday morning to put forward a bipartisan, multi-year highway bill that would fund projects for the next three years— leaving it to the next Congress to determine how to fund its final three years.
However, in the latest development, a motion introduced Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm EDT to begin debate on the bill was blocked, 41-56. Sixty votes were needed to move forward.
Addressing the Senate after that vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) applauded the bipartisan effort that went into framing the measure and stated that the chamber will be in session this Saturday and Sunday if that's what it takes to send the bill to the House.
"I can't say the House will pass a long-term bill, and without raising the gas tax, but it is more appealling [to do that] than doing this again in December," said McConnell
The deal that brought the bill forward had been put together in the past few days by Sen. McConnell and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Environment & Public Works.
Also speaking on the Senate floor after the procedural vote failed, Sen. Boxer urged her colleagues to keep "an eye on the prize... 800,000 construction workers are not back to work; seven states are not doing anything; in California, there was a bridge collapse two days ago."
Boxer pointed out that 68 organizations "from labor to business groups to governors have asked us to move forward [with a long-term highway bill]. They agree that passing another short-term extension is death by a thousand cuts. I think there wil be huge momentum [for a long-term bill in the House] if we can move this bill in a bipartisan fashion."
Neither senator has released details of their agreement. Regardless, one thing is certain: The McConnell-Boxer proposal differs sharply from the measure to fund highway and infrastructure expenditures through Dec. 18 that was passed by the full House last week.
"This is a six-year highway authorization that will allow planning for important long-term projects around the country, and the bill provides three years of guaranteed funding for the highway trust," McConnell said, when speaking about the deal on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
"Senators from both parties know that a long-term highway bill is in the best interest of our country," he added. "So we'll continue working together to get a good one passed. Thanks to the dedication of both Republican and Democratic Senators and their staffs, I'm hopeful we will."