Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidNearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate McCain files B amendment to boost defense spending 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 BoxerDem senators back Interior coal leasing review Trump and Sanders whip up debate buzz Boxer: Sanders appeals to young voters with grandpa effect MORE (D-Calif.), Tom CarperTom CarperFinancial industry spars with retailers over data breach bill Week ahead: Cyber Command in the spotlight Lawsuit exposes M cybertheft through banking software MORE (D-Del.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerRubio: 'Maybe' would run for Senate seat if 'good friend' wasn't McConnell-allied group: We'll back Rubio if he runs for reelection The Trail 2016: Interleague play MORE (R-Tenn.) that would fund the federal Highway Trust Fund only until Dec. 31.
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 WydenPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Senate panel delays email privacy vote amid concerns Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns 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.