Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate Passes Long-Term Highway Bill, Short-Term Extension

Newspaper article Roll Call

Senate Passes Long-Term Highway Bill, Short-Term Extension

Article excerpt

Updated 2:14 p.m. | The Senate passed its long-term highway bill (HR 22) shortly after noon Thursday, and then agreed to a House- passed three-month extension (HR 3236) before completing work for the day.

The margin for final passage of the long-term bill was fairly healthy, 65-34. The House's patch was passed in overwhelming fashion: 91-4.

For senators involved in crafting the bipartisan bill -- a six- year authorization with about three years worth of offsets to plug the hole in the Highway Trust Fund -- the solution is not ideal. They would have preferred the House stick around to at least consider accepting the Senate bill.

But absent that, as Environment and Public Works ranking member Barbara Boxer told CQ Roll Call, they want House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., to see how closely they can work to the Senate's bill in crafting their own.

"My preferred alternative is that they get our bill as early as possible ... and they look at and the two of them sit down, just like we sat down. And they have a good relationship, I want to make that point, they really do," the California Democrat said. "It's not up to me or Jim to write the House bill. It's up to them."

Boxer was making reference to her longtime Republican counterpart at EPW, Chairman James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

She suggested it should be easier for the House because the Senate already developed a list of pay-fors from various sources for three years. Much of that work was done with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in consultation with the other committees of jurisdiction over the highway bill.

Inhofe echoed that sentiment during the joint interview with Boxer earlier this week, saying "they could be spending all this time working on that, and when we come back after the recess we could ... quickly put a bill together."

House and Senate negotiators will have an incentive to work quickly, particularly if the end of October ends up being the time for a much bigger debate.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said Wednesday in a letter to congressional leaders "extraordinary measures" to avert a default on the federal debt will likely run through at least late October, "and it is likely that they will last for at least a brief additional period of time. …

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