House rejects Senate highway bill

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The House on Thursday shot down legislation from the Senate that would have extended federal transportation funding until December.

The 272-150 vote puts pressure on Senate Democrats to accept the House-passed transportation bill, which would provide funding until next spring and avert a late summer shutdown of construction projects.

Republicans said their $10.9 billion measure is now the only viable path for lawmakers to prevent a bankruptcy in infrastructure spending that has been predicted to occur in August. 

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"A vote against this motion is a vote to shut down transportation and construction projects," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said. 

Senate Democrats had hoped to force action on a long-term transportation bill during the lame-duck session after the November elections take place, and amended the House's bills so that the funding would not last until May.

The House on Thursday stripped those amendments from the bill.

Republicans want to extend road and transportation funding into next year and the next Congress — possibly one with a Republican Senate. Perhaps with that objective in mind, GOP leaders are now daring Democrats in the upper chamber to leave highway projects unfunded in an election year. 

The legislative game of chicken is occurring with just one day to go before the Department of Transportation has said it will be forced begin cutting back payments to state and local governments by as much as 28 percent.

House GOP leaders said Thursday that they were 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 that is needed to refill the Highway Trust Fund until the end of the year. 

Republican leaders criticized Senate Democrats for waiting until this week to address their original version of the transportation funding package.

“The House acted [to extend transportation funding] two weeks ago,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said. “The Senate acted last night."

Democrats said the Senate version of the transportation funding measure, actually approved on Tuesday, would make it more likely that Congress would ultimately approve a multi-year infrastructure spending plan. 

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

The Senate is expected to take up the House’s version of the transportation funding package again on Thursday afternoon.