House and Senate Pass a Highway Trust Fund Fix
Friday, August 1, 2014
The U.S. House and Senate have passed H.R. 5021, which is an $11 billion package that would ensure the solvency of the Highway Fund until May 2015. Both chambers cobbled together a similar patchwork of programs that will be used to provide the needed funding—a transfer of $1 billion from the underground storage tank trust fund intended to clean up leaks, $6.5 billion in taxes from pension smoothing, and $3.5 million from extension of customs user fees, are among the biggest sources of funding. The President has expressed support for the House bill.
The House passed its bill with overwhelming support (367-55) and without a partisan fight on amendments unrelated to transportation. The path in the Senate was not as smooth. Senate Democrats moved forward with their own bill with the extension to mid December 2014 in order to force Congress to act on a long-term highway bill in the lame duck session this year. The Senate bill also changed some of the offsets used in the House bill. The Senate passed its bill by a vote of 71-26.
The amended bill was sent back to the House, which rejected the Senate bill, restored the House bill, and sent it back to the Senate just before it was scheduled to leave on the five-week summer recess. The Congressional Budget Office revealed that the offsets in the Senate passed bill falls short by about $2 billion. This left the Senators with the choice to clear the House bill un-amended or face reductions in highway construction payments to states if no action was taken. The Senate later passed the House bill by a vote of 81-13 after the House refused to pass a Senate-amended bill. The bill now goes to the President for signing.
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