The House has passed H.R. 3236, a new 3-month extension that provides financing for the Highway Trust Fund and other transportation expenses. Current transportation funding will expire July 31.
The bill now moves on to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the legislation today or tomorrow and then send it on to President Obama, who said Wednesday he would sign the bill.
The Senate and House have been at odds the past two weeks over working up a long-term funding solution immediately or providing a short-term solution.
Wednesday morning the Senate voted to invoke cloture on it’s long-term funding legislation, H.R. 22 (the DRIVE Act), in a 65-35 vote, setting up a possible final vote on the bill some time today. Even if the chamber approves the bill today, no action will take place on it in the House, as its members left for their August break yesterday evening.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) introduced the extension Tuesday, despite the existence of a 5-month bill approved earlier in July.
“My goal remains the completion of a long-term bill to improve our nation’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure as soon as possible, and the House continues to make progress on that bill,” Shuster said. “The Senate’s work on their transportation bill is a positive step, but the House also needs to make its voice heard and put forth its own priorities for such a significant piece of legislation. I believe this three-month extension represents the compromise that allows the House more time, and a confirmation of our commitment to produce a fiscally responsible long-term proposal.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) reiterated Shuster’s point just before the chambers vote. “We believe this gives us enough time to come up with a long-term solution,” he said.
All indications are both chambers will work in conference before the Oct. 29 end date for the extension, and come to a resolution on a long-term highway bill, according to statements by both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
“Senator McConnell and I, while we have a disagreement over this bill, or we’ve had one, we both want to get to a long-term highway bill,” Boehner said. “Senator McConnell and I are frankly going to work very closely to try to minimize the differences.”
McConnell said long-term funding is the joint goal for the House and Senate.
“We’ll conference the legislation we pass with what the House passes, and then send a unified bill to the President,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ll work with our friends in the House to pass a measure that will give them the space they need to develop a multi-year highway bill.”
While McConnell’s comments Wednesday were measured, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) pushed the House, as she did on Tuesday, to delay leaving for their five-week break and continue to work on a long-term transportation bill.
“Please don’t leave with the mess on this issue,” she said in a morning presentation.
Using a large blue poster with yellow writing as a visual aide, Boxer prodded House members for their solution.
“Where is the House bill?” she asked, reading off the poster. “What is it about our bill you don’t like? Either they (the House) don’t know how to proceed, or they want to go on their break.”
The Senate plans to remain in session through the end of next week.