Whitehouse: House highway bill is ‘pathetic’

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said the House-passed highway funding bill fails to provide the kind of certainty states need to invest in long-term infrastructure projects.

“The House highway bill is woefully inadequate — frankly it’s a pathetic measure,” Whitehouse said on the Senate floor Monday.

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But Whitehouse said he would still vote for the House bill later this week because anything would be better than having a funding disruption and job losses.

“The only positive thing that can be said about this bill is that it’s better than no bill at all and the collapse of the highway fund,” Whitehouse said. “But that’s not much of an accommodation.”

Earlier this month, the House passed a $10 billion bill to extend the Highway Trust Fund through May.

Whitehouse said he would also be supporting a bipartisan Senate amendment that would only extend the fund through December in order to force lawmakers to act before the end of the year. Whitehouse said the economy needs the certainty of a six-year extension that solves the funding problem.

“We should not procrastinate until next May,” Whitehouse said. 

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.

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