With the Highway Trust Fund set to expire this week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives have proposed a three- week patch to give them time to work on a long-term transportation funding bill.
The House introduced the measure to fund and extend transportation programs through Nov. 20. Only extending the HTF by three weeks signals that lawmakers in the House hope to have a transportation bill passed by Thanksgiving.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee just approved the six-year, $325 billion Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 last week.
RELATED >> Caterpillar CEO says Congress’ inaction on long-term highway bill threatens nation’s future
But there wasn’t enough time for a full vote with the Oct. 29 deadline, so Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), fellow committee member Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) say they had to introduce the 35th short-term patch to the HTF since 2008.
“Last week, the Transportation Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan, multi-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. We look forward to voting on that bill in the House soon and then going to conference with the Senate on their highway bill,” Shuster said. “I am confident that we can resolve the differences between the House and Senate measures and producing a final product that’s good for our Nation’s infrastructure. This extension will allow the highway bill process to continue moving forward without shutting down transportation programs and projects across the country.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Friday that the short-term patch was the “unfortunate reality” since the clock is running out, The Hill reported. The House is expected to vote on the patch today, and the Senate will have two days to pass it before it lands on Obama’s desk.
The Senate passed its own long-term transportation bill called the DRIVE Act earlier this year, but the House didn’t act on it because of certain concerns regarding funding—the bill had funding for three years, but made commitments for six. Though, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) said that the two bills are similar enough to get something on Obama’s desk sometime in November.
“Both the Senate and the House bills have many similarities that will allow for a very short conference period,” Inhofe said. “With this milestone, Congress should be able to send a bill to the president’s desk by Thanksgiving. This will allow for our nation to avoid the Highway Trust Fund hitting a dangerously low level, which DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx warned would significantly affect the 2016 construction season.”