Senate Runs into Long-Term Highway Funding Bill Roadblocks

The Senate, on Tuesday, unveiled a bipartisan bill containing three years of funding for America’s highways, bridges and rail systems but it quickly ran into a roadblock that could force Congress to settle for a shorter-term fix already approved by the House.

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The legislation would provide $130 billion for surface transportation investments through 2018 and, if passed, would be the first multi-year highway bill in more than decade. It is expected to dominate Senate deliberations into next week as Republicans and Democrats work against a July 31 deadline to keep the national Highway Trust Fund from running out of money. Lawmakers avoided an increase in the national gasoline tax and instead cobbled together funding totaling $47 billion. Funding sources include $9 billion in oil sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and $16.3 billion from a cut in Federal Reserve dividends to large banks.

However, opposition to the bill in both parties.

“Based on my conversations with the Democrats in the House (of Representatives) and their conversations with Republican leaders, I don’t think there’s a chance in the world they’re going to take up this bill,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) told Reuters.

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Senate Democrats on Tuesday shot down an initial push to begin debate on the bipartisan legislation, saying Republican leaders had not provided enough time to review the 1,030-page bill. In the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.)  criticized the bill for only providing three years of funding when the overall Senate infrastructure plan calls for six years of spending. McCarthy said senators should pursue another short-term bill now and work toward six-year legislation “that you actually pay for.”

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