House approves bill to extend highway funding
The AP (7/15, Lowy, Espo) reports that the House on Wednesday approved by a 312-119 vote a bill to “temporarily shore up funding for transportation programs and prevent a shutdown in highway and transit aid to states at the end of this month.” The House bill looks to extend funding until December 18 by providing $8 billion; however, the Federal Highway Trust is still in need of funds as it is expected to drop below $4 billion by the end of July. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are working on coming up with a multi-year bill.
The Huffington Post (7/15, Barron-Lopez) notes that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) urged the Senate to “move quickly” to pass the five-month extension. Ryan stated, “This bipartisan action will keep construction workers on the job, and pave the way for further efforts on a long-term infrastructure plan.”
The Washington Post (7/15, Snell) reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “said he would prefer to pass an extension into early 2016 that would be funded through a combination of spending cuts and other unidentified funding sources, but it will be difficult to cobble together such a proposal that can pass both the House and the Senate.”
The Hill (7/15, Laing) reports that President Obama will sign the House-approved “$8 billion highway patch, the White House said, despite an earlier veto hint by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.” White House officials indicated no veto would occur, saying, “it is too important to prevent an interruption in the nation’s infrastructure spending,” the article reports. “With surface transportation authorization expiring at the end of July, the unfortunate reality is that, due to inaction, Congress will need to pass a short-term extension,” the White House said.
The Journal-News (OH) (7/15, Wehrman) reports that Secretary Foxx “said Wednesday that while Congress scrambles to get the baseline funding for the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, that money doesn’t address the 70 million additional people that will live in the United States by 2045.”
The Hill (7/15, Laing) in another article reports that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) slammed the GOP highway patch, saying it would do little more than kick the can down the road. “We are in exactly the same spot we were in a year ago,” he said, adding, “It’s not that much different than where we were two years ago.”
Businesses “Begrudgingly” Accept Short-Term Fix. The Nashville (TN) Business Journal (7/16, Subscription Publication) reports that business groups “begrudgingly accepted” the House’s short-term extension for highway funding only because it was better than “allowing the Highway Trust Fund to run out of money.” The Journal notes that business groups had preferred a six-year highway bill, but Congress “made little progress” toward that goal. NAM Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy Robyn Boerstling stated that the nation’s “businesses deserve better than ‘a crumbling infrastructure where bridges and roads continue to age and fail our expectations.’” Boerstling added, “With another short-term bandage in hand, Congress must now use this time in earnest, and work every day of the next five months to pass a well-funded, multi-year surface transportation authorization.”
Foxx: Tax Plan To Fund Highway Bill “Has Real Legs.” USA Today (7/15, Tumulty) reports that Secretary Foxx on Wednesday said that a proposal to overhaul international tax rules in a bid to provide funding for highway and mass transit programs for six years “has real legs.” The proposal, backed by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rob Portman (R-OH), could provide a 40 percent increase in Federal funding for highways, bridges and transit, according to Schumer. Foxx conceded that “it is clear that more time is needed” for the Portman-Schumer proposal to mature, hence the Administration’s support for the current extension. “An additional $15 billion to $20 billion in annual funding will be needed in the coming years just to maintain the aging federal highway and transit systems, Foxx said,” according to the article.
Sens. Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) and Dan Coats (R-IN) write for Roll Call (7/15, Toomey, Coats) about the need to “reform how Washington spends highway money and find savings to close the funding gap.” They write that patches no longer work and that “there’s a sensible way to pass a long-term highway bill that fully funds our highways, roads and bridges, does not increase taxes, grows our economy, creates jobs and reduces the deficit.” They propose that highway funding be paired “with modernizing our immigration system for highly skilled workers” by allowing foreigners to pay taxes, create jobs and bring in additional revenue.
Senate expected to attach Ex-Im reauthorization to Highway Funding Bill
The Hill (7/15, Laing) reports that the Senate is expected to attach a re-authorization of the Ex-Im Bank to the highway funding measure and send it back to the House for a vote. The Wall Street Journal (7/16, McKinnon, Subscription Publication) notes that the Senate may vote on a measure to extend highway funding for two or more years, but may instead take the House bill and add the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization. Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) urged the Senate to vote on an extension without any unrelated measures.
According to the Washington Times (7/15, Howell), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) said it was “unclear” whether the GOP will “block a legislative rule” allowing the Senate’s version of the highway funding bill to the House floor, a version that includes the Ex-Im reauthorization.