House and Senate Duel Over Highway Bill, Move Forward on Short-Term Extension

After a week of procedural motions and votes on a Senate bill which would extend federal surface transportation programs for six years and ensure the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund for three years, Congress will likely settle for a three-month extension of current programs and the Trust Fund before considering long-term solutions this Fall. With a July 31 deadline looming to refill the Highway Trust Fund, and with both chambers of Congress planning to adjourn for the annual August Congressional recess, leadership in the House and Senate will likely plan to use the Senate’s long-term bill as a basis for negotiation in the Fall. The House of Representatives will take up and pass the threemonth extension today, and the Senate will likely pass the extension either this evening or tomorrow, Thursday, July 30.

The Senate bill, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in negotiation with Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, includes strong funding for roads and bridges, limitations on transit funding, and an extension of the Export-Import Bank for four years. To offset the costs of these extensions, the Senate opted to include a variety of small revenue and fee provisions rather than increase the federal gas tax from its current level of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. An amendment which would have included the National Hiring Standard for Motor Carriers in the legislation was introduced by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). When Congress resumes consideration of a long-term bill later this fall, TIA will continue working with industry partners and Members of Congress to enact this important reform.