Senate Passes Transportation Bill; House Not Likely to Play Ball

Three days before Congress goes on recess and with the Highway Trust Fund approaching insolvency, the Senate passed a transportation bill notably different than the House version passed July 15, setting up a showdown between the two branches.

As noted Sunday, the Senate heard four amendments on the House Transportation bill on Tuesday (July 29) evening - and passed two of them, setting up a major confrontation with the House. Politico's Adam Snider provides the details: 

  • They voted 71-26 for an amendment from Finance Committee leaders Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that stripped the House language and instead pasted in a slightly different bill that would raise the money needed to keep the fund afloat, primarily by replacing some of the money from pension smoothing with tax compliance language."
  • Senators also voted 66-31 to sunset the policy and funding extension in December [known as the Boxer-Corker-Carper proposal], a big difference from the May 2015 cutoff contained in the House version...A number of lawmakers and lobbyists think that it would be easier to win approval for a gas tax increase or other funding solution in the lame duck session, although Boehner and Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) have ruled that out.
  • Before passage, senators also voted down separate amendments from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to largely eliminate the gas tax and give states more power over transportation decisions, and from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to waive environmental reviews for reconstruction of disaster-damaged roads and bridges.

Lee's devolution amendment that would eliminate the federal gas tax "was killed in a 28-69 vote," writes The Hill's Keith Laing.

"Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear Tuesday that the House wasn’t about to reopen the highway debate, having passed legislation that would prevent the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt in August," writes The Hill's Ramsey Cox

“I just want to make clear: If the Senate sends a highway bill over here with those provisions, we’re just going to strip it out,” Boehner said.

"It was unclear Tuesday evening exactly what path the House might take, but in any case the two chambers are likely to spar until the very last minute, with pressure ramping up as lawmakers get increasingly eager to leave for their long August break," adds Snider.

The stakes are high - on August 1, federal transportation reimbursement checks to state department of transportations will be reduced unless a funding extension is passed, warned Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

Full Story: Senate steps closer to 'highway cliff

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