House moves up highway vote after GOP border bill collapses

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The House moved up consideration of a nearly $11 billion bill to extend federal transportation funding, after Republican leaders pulled a controversial immigration bill from consideration on Tuesday afternoon. 

The House has been expected to vote on a $659 million border bill before they moved onto the transportation funding package, but Republican leaders postponed the measure and moved quickly to the infrastructure bill. 

GOP lawmakers said they were determined to approve the transportation funding bill, even as the border measure crumbled on the final legislative day before a monthlong August recess. 

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"We have an immediate, critical need to address the solvency of the [highway] trust fund," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said. 

The legislation at issue is intended to extend federal transportation spending temporarily to prevent a bankruptcy in the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund that has been projected to occur in August. 

The transportation department has said it would be forced begin cutting back payments to state and local governments on Friday by as much as 28 percent unless Congress acts quickly to replenish the fund.

Democrats want to deal with a longer-term fix during the lame-duck session after the November elections, while Republicans want to extend funding into next year and the next Congress — possibly one with a Republican Senate.

The motion that is being voted on by the House now would strip changes that were made by the Senate to shorten the expiration date of the transportation funding measure from May 2015 to Dec. 19, 2014, and send the bill back to the upper chamber. 

House GOP leaders have said that they are forced to reject the Senate’s version of the highway bill because it contains a technical error that would leave the measure about $2 billion short of the amount of money that is needed to refill the Highway Trust Fund until the end of the year. 

Democrats accused Republicans of ducking debating a long-term transportation bill before the end of the year. 

"Short-term funding is like no funding," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said. 

Republicans countered that their version of the transportation funding extension was the only viable measure to beat the deadline for replenishing the highway fund.

"A vote against this motion is a vote to shut down transportation and construction projects," Shuster said. 

The House is scheduled to adjourn for the rest of the month of August after the vote.

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