By Scott Wong - 07/13/15 08:47 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) huddled with leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus Monday evening to discuss the possibility of a six-month highway funding bill.
A vote in the House could happen by the end of the week, sources in the meeting said — a preemptive strike designed to deter the Senate from sending over its own highway bill with a provision to renew the expired Export-Import Bank.
Conservatives oppose the bank, which finances foreign investments for U.S. companies. And they fear that the 80-year-old institution would get revived if it comes to the House floor attached to a must-pass Senate highway bill.
Hours after the McCarthy meeting, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanIntelligence director: Withholding classified briefings from Trump, Clinton ‘not an option’ Ladies, don’t give it up for Trump California National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments MORE (R-Wis.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) rolled out a transportation bill to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through Dec. 18.
McCarthy is hoping to pass the highway bill with a “big suspension vote, so big that it would jam the Senate,” said Rep. John FlemingJohn FlemingClub for Growth: Anti-Trump spending proved to be 'good call' David Duke gets debate slot in La. Senate race Prostitution fight tightens Louisiana Senate race MORE (R-La.), one of the Freedom Caucus co-founders who attended the meeting in the leader’s office. “Because if the Senate originates the bill, it could have the Ex-Im Bank.
“It’s all about Ex-Im Bank — how do we avoid getting a vote on the Ex-Im Bank?”
Others in attendance included Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
“I think it’s a reasonable approach,” Meadows said of the six-month patch.
Funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects runs out on July 31. But a McCarthy aide said Monday he had no announcements about the timing of a possible House highway vote. And he declined to detail what was discussed in McCarthy’s meeting with the Freedom group.
“Leader McCarthy has an open door policy and meets with any Member or group that asks,” the aide said.
However, earlier this year, McCarthy told reporters he hoped to extend highway funding to the end of 2015, when a long-term highway bill could be coupled with tax reform.
And on Friday, Ryan told reporters that lawmakers should pass a temporary measure that extends federal transportation funding through the end of the year. That roughly $8 billion patch should give House and Senate negotiators enough time to reach a deal on a six-year solution to keep money flowing to highway and other construction projects.
“This country needs a long-term plan to fix our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, and this bill gives us our best shot at completing one this year,” Ryan and Shuster said in a joint statement Monday night. “By providing resources through the end of the year, we can ensure construction continues while we work toward a package that could close the trust fund’s shortfall for as many as six years.
“We urge all members who want some long-sought stability in our highway and transit programs to support this critical extension,” the chairmen said.