Reid sets up highway vote

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidMcConnell: TPP not coming up this year Politicians can’t afford to ignore Latinos Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration MORE (D-Nev.) announced a deal with Republicans on Wednesday that paves the way for a final vote on a bill to fund federal transportation projects through next spring.

The deal will allow votes on an alternative bill offered by Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFeds weigh whether carbon pollution should be measured in highway performance Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted Reid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC MORE (D-Calif.), Tom CarperTom CarperCarper pushes DHS for elections to be classified critical infrastructure US Postal Service posts .57 billion loss Centrist Dems wary of public option push MORE (D-Del.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerBolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State Trump struggles to land punches on Dems over ISIS GOP senator: Trump calling Obama ISIS founder 'went far too far' MORE (R-Tenn.) that would fund the federal Highway Trust Fund only until Dec. 31.

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It also sets up a vote on amendments offered by Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeThe impact of silence: The incarceration of children who have committed no crime Fidelity denies lobbying for student loan tax break Cruz, Lee question legality of Iran payment MORE (R-Utah) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

A final vote on the underlying House bill, which is backed by the White House, could come Thursday.

The House bill would provide $10.9 billion to fund projects. It would use a number of offsets to pay for the costs of the bill. Without action by Congress, the fund would have gone bankrupt next month, ending funding for projects. 

“Allowing the Highway Trust Fund to run dry would slam the breaks on critical infrastructure projects across the land,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenWhy you should care about National Whistleblower AppreciatIon Day Dems push to require presidential nominees to release tax returns Legislators privacy fight coincides with FCC complaint MORE (D-Ore.) said. “It is nonnegotiable that Congress is going to prevent that from happening.”

The trust fund gets its money from the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax, which has struggled to keep up with the need for infrastructure spending projects as cars grow more fuel-efficient.

Most of the costs of the House bill are offset through "pension smoothing," which some senators in both parties have derided as a budget gimmick. Those senators want to only extend funding until December so that Congress is under pressure to work on a long-term highway bill after the midterm elections.

“Many claim that budget gimmicks should not be used as offsets to pay for spending.” Corker said. “I have long been against the disgraceful practice of spending money today and paying for it in the future. It’s shameful, it’s irresponsible, and it’s generational theft.”

— Keith Laing contributed to this article.

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