Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
House kicks can down road on road funding
Politics » $11B stop-gap fix pays for projects and jobs through May.
First Published Jul 15 2014 09:54 pm • Last Updated Jul 15 2014 09:54 pm

Washington • Faced with the threat that federal money for 117,000 transportation projects would begin to dry up in two weeks, the House on Tuesday approved a nearly $11-billion patch to extend funding through May.

The stop-gap fix to avert a crisis imperiling up to 700,000 construction jobs won endorsement from the White House, but the Senate is likely to tinker with it before it reaches President Barack Obama’s desk.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The bill, approved by a 367-55 vote, would transfer $9.9 billion from the general fund and $1 billion from a separate trust fund into the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run in the red starting next month.

The general fund transfers would be offset by extending customs fees and a process called pension smoothing, both steps that critics have denounced as gimmicks and "smoke and mirrors."

"We shouldn’t be paying for filling potholes by creating potholes in Americans’ pensions," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who voted against the bill. "This is not a serious or sustainable response to the challenge of an underfunded highway program. Congress should bite the bullet and do its job."

The Senate is moving toward it’s own short-term fix built around those two funding sources and tapping into an array of others. Rather than move forward with that bill, the Senate may amend the House bill to its liking and send it to the White House.

A small but critical difference between the two bills will have to be resolved. The House bill extends funding until May 31, the Senate bill, which contains a similar amount of cash, is open ended.

Pull back the covers on that discrepancy to uncover a largely partisan divide.

Senate Democrats, who say they have a few silent GOP supporters, insist that a long-term transportation bill must be considered in the post-election lame-duck session. They argue that extending the funding window until June could make transportation a pawn next year in larger debates about the debt ceiling or a continuing resolution on the federal budget.

House Republicans, with support from several GOP senators, including Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, favor giving the new Congress time to find its legs before tackling transportation.


story continues below
story continues below

The nub of the controversy is who will control the Senate after the November election. Democrats think they will retain it. Republicans think they may gain it.

If the GOP takes control of the Senate, they are sure to want to modify the six-year transportation proposal that won the approval of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in May.

Some Republicans, particularly in the House, would like to de-couple funding for transit systems from the Highway Trust Fund, reserving the money road and bridge projects. They also object to about $820 million for alternative transportation projects, which include erosion-control landscaping and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

"We are here with a questionable short-term fix because this Congress has refused to address its responsibility to fund our transportation infrastructure system," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who voted against the bill. "Congress shouldn’t duck its responsibilities, but should pass a six-year plan and its funding into law this year. Mark my words; next May we’re just going to be back here again, debating the same issue, but deeper in the hole with a steeper climb out."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the public works committee, is strident in her insistence that a long-term bill be approved before Dec. 19, when Congress heads home for the Christmas recess.

Her leverage is an authorization bill. The current two-year authorization bill expires Sept. 30. If she refuses to permit extension of authorization to allow spending beyond Dec. 19, the May 31 funding allocation passed by the House may become moot.

While the White House endorsed the stop-gap measure approved by House, Obama said Tuesday, "All this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now.

"So Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis when it comes to something as basic as our infrastructure," he said. "Instead of barely paying our bills in the present, we should be investing in the future."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the president should pressure the Senate to pass a long-term bill.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.