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House Overwhelmingly Passes Republican Highway Trust Fund Patch Bill

By a vote of 367-55, the House passed Rep. Dave Camp's "pension smoothing" bill to provide ten months of funding for the deficit-plagued Highway Trust Fund through May. A long-term (five- or six-year) funding plan will be attempted then.
July 16, 2014, 2pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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With just over two weeks before DOT reduces federal transportation reimbursement checks to states on August 1, the House on July 15th passed H.R. 5021 - Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2104. With the president's support [PDF], the $10.9 billion funding measure now moves to the Senate.

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlined a plan to set up votes on three separate bills: the House one, the Senate Finance measure that differs on several issues and a plan from (Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works) EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer to extend policy through December in an effort to force a vote on a long-term bill this year," writes Politico's Adam Snider.

Vote breakdown: There were slightly more Democrats (186) voting for the bill than there were Republicans (181). 45 GOPers voted against it, while only 10 Dems did. See the full breakdown:

The vote appeared to be a snub to conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action which had "issued a key-vote alert (Monday) urging House members to vote against the bill," writes Snider in Tuesday's Morning Transportation prior to the vote. As we suggested recently, House members may be more attune to state legislatures and state DOTs that are counting on federal transportation payments, particularly if they affect transportation projects in their districts.

NPR's White House correspondent, Scott Horsley, described the chief funding mechanism of Camp's bill, suggesting it be called a "pension smoothie" as opposed to pension smoothing.

It allows employers that offer traditional pensions to set aside less money for future retirees. That makes the companies appear more profitable in the short run so they — or their employees — pay more money to the government in taxes.

Watch for actions by Sen. Boxer. As Snider noted Tuesday prior to the House vote, 

The White House’s statement [PDF], which calls on Congress to pass a long-term bill before May 2015, likely won’t sit well with Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden and EPW Chair Barbara Boxer, both of whom have said they want to pass a bill in the lame duck session after the elections. Boxer’s panel controls the policy authorization that expires Sept. 30, and she could use that power to push for a December expiration date as a way to force action this year.

In other words, if the U.S. is going to continue to collect the fuel and excise taxes that provide $34 billion of the $50 billion spent annually in MAP-21, the bill will need Boxer's blessing.

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 in Politico Morning Transportation
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