Floor vote next week on highway funding bill

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he expects the House will vote next week on a proposal to maintain the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund through early 2015.

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Boehner endorsed the measure at the weekly House GOP press conference and indicated the chamber would move quickly.

"I think Chairman Camp [R-Mich.] and members of the Ways and Means Committee have a really solid bill to help pay for the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund for the next eight to nine months," Boehner said.

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up legislation crafted by Chairman Dave Camp on Thursday to give highway projects more than $10 billion in funding through May 31, 2015. The Highway Trust Fund is projected to run out of money by August.

Under Camp's proposal, the extension would be offset with about $6.4 billion in revenue from pension smoothing, another $3.5 billion from customs user fees and a final $1 billion from an account set up to deal with leaking underground storage tanks. Some of those pay-fors have been offered as ways to pay for renewing unemployment insurance, perhaps making it even harder to move a Democratic priority in this Congress.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who said on Tuesday he would announce more concrete steps on the trust fund, has yet to comment on Camp’s proposal. Wyden has released a plan that would rely on several tax increases to finance highway projects, but has found resistance among Republicans.

If Congress doesn’t act before it leaves for August, the transportation department has said that states would face a 28 percent cut in infrastructure funding. The Transportation Department has also said that allowing the trust fund to go bankrupt could cost 700,000 jobs. Without congressional action, the department would have to withhold payments to state and local governments next month, the DOT added.

With the midterm elections around the corner, both parties are also revving up the political rhetoric surrounding the trust fund. Democrats, for instance, have called on Republicans to work with them to avoid a highway shutdown — a nod to last year’s government shutdown, when Republicans took the lion’s share of the blame.