The House of Representatives rejected the Senate’s fix to the Highway Trust Fund Thursday afternoon in the final hours before Congress breaks for its August recess.
House Ways and Means chairman,Rep. Dave Camp,R-Mich.,said he was frustrated that the Senate took two weeks to debate the House’s bill.
“Not everybody agrees,” Camp said,during the brief debate. Ideas to fix the trust fund,such as raising the gas tax or establishing a vehicle miles traveled fee were floated but consensus was not met.
Camp also poked at a drafting error in the bill,which leaves the nation’s highways and byways with $2 billion less than is needed.
Dissenters made their voices heard. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton,D-D.C.,said the House “didn’t have the guts,” to solve the problem in time.
Tuesday evening,the Senate voted on an amendment to the House’s bill. It removed a measure to change the way corporations calculate pensions and would have provided funding to the Highway Trust Fund until the end of the year — forcing Congress to find a long-term solution before the 114th Congress is seated in January.
But the current House wants the next Congress,likely a more Republican one,to find the long-term solution. The House vote strips the timing amendment that the Senate added to the bill,meaning that the Highway Trust Fund will have funding until next May.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer,D-Ore.,said he wished Congress would take a break from campaigning this fall to address the problem.
“I’d be happy to be here in October to avoid a cliff,” he said.
Camp reassured Blumenauer that the Ways and Means committee would have another hearing addressing a long-term solution once Congress reconvenes.
The bill headed to the Senate,the short-term solution,prevents the Department of Transportation from having to reduce payments to states,theoretically keeping construction going. But because funding beyond May is uncertain,governors are leery about breaking ground on large projects that could take years.
Reach reporter Daniel Wheaton at [email protected] or 202-236-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.