House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced Tuesday that Congress’ lower chamber would be bringing legislation to the floor on Wednesday which temporarily funds the Highway Trust through the end of October.
House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), originally promised Senate leaders, who wanted a six-year extension on highway funding, of a longer short-term deal and that a three-month extension “would probably cost the same amount of money as a five months.”
Conservatives in the House are supporting short-term funding in order to use negotiations with the White House of a long-term bill in the fall as leverage to secure corporate tax reform which brings money sitting in off-shore accounts back to the U.S. Congress could then use the extra infusion of cash to fund an even more robust federal highway bill.
“I want a long-term highway bill that is fully paid for,” said John Boehner at a press conference Tuesday, after emerging from a meeting with Republican lawmakers. “We’ve been trying to do this for four years.”
The six-year extension favored by the Senate only provides funding through the first three years and includes an amendment reinstating the Export-Import Bank charter for five years, a measure also opposed by conservatives in both chamber of Congress.
The Highway Trust Fund, which pays for federal transportation projects, expires on Friday. A deal must be reached between the House and Senate within the next two days, as the House will go into a month-long recess starting Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters later on Tuesday that the Senate will take up the House bill if and when it passes.
Democrats also seem to be willing to get behind the three-month extension, although liberals and some pro-business Republicans strongly support renewing the Export-Import Bank, which helps American companies secure loans and provides insurance for overseas transactions.
This is the 34th short-term transportation funding bill passed by Congress since 2009. The three-month extension bill coming to the House floor Wednesday includes a transfer of $3.4 billion to the Veteran Affairs Department (V.A.) which is facing a budget crisis that would force V.A. hospitals and clinics nationwide to close starting in August.
[AP] [The Hill]