Camp rejects Senate highway bill as ‘higher taxes for more spending’

Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) on Thursday bashed a Senate proposal to spend $9 billion to extend federal transportation funding until after the midterm elections as “higher taxes for more spending.” 

Camp rendered his verdict on the Senate legislation as his panel approved by voice vote a rival $10.5 billion bill that would push the transportation funding problem into the next Congress. 

The GOP proposal relies mostly on revenue from pension changes and custom fees to offset the bulk of the cash infusion in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund.

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Camp said Thursday that the differences between the chamber’s approaches to the transportation funding extension were larger than the timing of its expiration. 

"The Senate appears to be heading down a road of higher taxes for more spending," he said. "That’s not a path forward in the House."

Camp rejected Democratic efforts to have the transportation funding package expire during the lame-duck session that will follow the November elections, which infrastructure advocates have said will make it easier to convince lawmakers to go along with an increase in the federal gas tax.  

"We all know what lame-duck deals look like, and more importantly, how they come together," Camp said Thursday. 

Democrats on the panel criticized Republicans leaders in the House for focusing on a short-term patch instead of a longer transportation funding bill. 

“This proposal just kicks the can down the road,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said. 

Lawmakers are racing to find a way to shore up the Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to reach insolvency in August. The Transportation Department has warned states are just weeks away from being hit with steep cuts to their funding.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said lawmakers would be unlikely to approve a long-term transportation bill if they put off a decision until later in the year.

“Soon we’re going to find ourselves in the middle of a presidential election, and you know how much fun this issue will be when the guns go off for the race for the White House, which I suspect is going to be in November this year,” he said.

“We still have time in the 113th [Congress] to make some tough decisions, but everyone’s so God-danged afraid of making tough decisions around here, especially anything involving revenue,” he said.

— This story was last updated at 11:19 a.m.