President Obama Signs Three-Month Transportation Funding Bill
Before continuing transportation spending after July 31 by passing the three-month Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 3236), the Senate first did what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had set out to do from the onset: pass a six-year transportation reauthorization bill, the DRIVE Act.
It passed 65-34. "Fifteen Republican senators, including three 2016 presidential candidates, bucked McConnell and voted against the proposal," wrote Jordain Carney of The Hill on Thursday. The House will take it up when it returns from its six-week recess in September,.
By contrast, the three-month patch bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through Oct. 29 passed by a 91-4 vote. The $11.5 billion bill transfers $8.1 billion from the Treasury General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund and $3.4 billion to cover a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The president signed the 34th transportation extension since 2009 on the deadline, July 31, as federal spending for highways would otherwise cease at midnight.
It was the third extension in the last 10 months, according to AASHTO's press release. While relieved that Congress passed the bill, he also expressed his frustration during the billing signing as he wanted a six-year reauthorization bill, preferably his Grow America Act.
"We can't keep on funding transportation by the seat of our pants, three months at a time. That’s just not how the greatest country on earth does business. I guarantee you that's not how China, Germany and other countries around the world handle their infrastructure."
"The $8 billion package signed by Obama extends infrastructure spending until Oct. 29, punting the debate until fall," writes The Hill's Jordan Fabian.
Not so fast on that deadline. "The transfer from the General Fund and the corresponding offsets in the three-month bill were identical to those in the five-month bill, writes Kellie Mejdrich of Roll Call, meaning that the bill has enough funding to last till Dec. 18.
"Heather Caygle [of Politico] explains that 'if the House and Senate are unable to pull together a long-term bill by the October deadline, they could easily just extend program authority for two months'," writes Jennifer Scholtes of Politico Morning Transportation. "That would drag out Highway Trust Fund uncertainty into December or beyond — and ultimately give House leaders the five-month extension they wanted all along," adds Caygle.