House schedules highway bill markup

House schedules highway bill markup
© Greg Nash

The House is planning to mark up a long-term transportation funding bill on Oct. 22, just days before the scheduled expiration of the nation's infrastructure spending. 

The chamber's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced Wednesday that the long-awaited hearing will take place one week before the scheduled Oct. 29 expiration of the current law that authorizes the federal government's transportation spending. 

The panel's chairman, Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterThe Hill Interview: Missouri Republican has gavel on his radar For Trump, GOP tax bill could have big downside GOP chairman fundraising for conservative House member MORE (R-Pa.), said the hearing will give lawmakers a chance to weigh on a multi-year extension of the transportation funding measure. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“Our nation’s economy depends on a safe, efficient surface transportation system, and one of the Transportation Committee’s priorities is to address the needs of the system,” Shuster said in a statement announcing the markup. 

“Next week, the committee will move forward with the policy and authorization provisions of a bill to improve America’s surface transportation infrastructure, reform programs, refocus those programs on national priorities, provide more flexibility and certainty for state and local partners, and welcome innovation,” he continued. 

Congress is struggling to come up with a way to pay for an infrastructure funding extension before the Oct. 29 deadline that was set by lawmakers in a temporary extension that was passed in July. 

Democrats in the Senate have pressured House Republicans to pass a six-year highway bill after they rejected a multi-year highway bill from Senate known as the DRIVE Act during the summer because it contained six years' worth of transportation commitments but only three years' worth of guaranteed funding. 

The House instead passed a three-month highway bill that is set to expire on Oct. 29, legislation the Senate was forced to accept to prevent an interruption in federal transportation spending. 

Transportation advocates often complain that Congress has not passed an infrastructure measure that lasts longer than two years since 2005 due to a highway funding shortfall that is estimated to be $16 billion annually.

The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue that is collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon. The gas tax brings about $34 billion per year, but the federal government typically spends about $50 billion annually on transportation projects.

Transportation advocates have pushed for a gas tax increase to help make up the difference, but Shuster and other Republicans have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump

The Department of Transportation has warned that it will have to begin cutting back on payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects in November if Congress does not reach an agreement on a highway bill extension this month.