With the support of the White House, Senate Democrats are lining up support from Republican colleagues, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups and labor unions to pass a two-year $109 billion highway bill that would maintain existing funding levels, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. White House officials said passage of a highway bill would be a priority when Congress returns from August recess.
If Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 30, the current law authorizing highway and transit spending will expire and with it the gasoline tax that generates about $34 billion a year for infrastructure projects. There is enough money in the federal highway trust fund to support funding in the Senate bill over the short term, according to government projections.
While the proposal falls short of the spending increases and national infrastructure bank that had been previously floated, it is still significantly better than the proposals coming from the House, where Republicans are pushing for a six-year $230 billion bill that would dramatically cut spending. In fact, the Journal notes that the Senate proposal is likely to run into opposition in the House, where a spokesman for House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R. Fla.) said the chairman’s top priority is passing a six-year bill.
President Obama has recently begun calling for a road-construction bill. “Tell Congress to get past their differences and send me a road-construction bill so that companies can put tens of thousands of people to work right now building our roads and bridges and airports and seaports,” Obama told audiences on his recent bus tour across the Midwest.
Road Bill Gets Another Look