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DOT chief 'confident' Ryan wants to move highway bill

DOT chief 'confident' Ryan wants to move highway bill

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE said Monday that he is "confident" newly minted House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) wants to pass a multiyear infrastructure funding bill that has languished in Congress for the better part of a decade. 

The House is considering a $325 billion transportation bill this week that would be the first infrastructure measure to last longer for than two years since 2005.

Foxx said Monday during an interview on MSNBC's "MTP Daily" show that he is optimistic because Ryan has displayed an interest in solving the nation's transportation funding problems before he accepted the gavel to lead the House last week. 

"I think we owe it to the new speaker to give him a chance to get something done here," Foxx said. 

"I think there's absolutely an interest in doing this," the DOT chief continued. "I've actually been to Janesville in his district and seen the fact that they have transportation issues back in his home district. I'm confident that he would like to get something done here. I think the devil is in what does it look like? Is it big enough to address the challenges we face as a country?" 

Ryan has been mum on the highway bill's fate since he was elected Speaker last week, but the House is preparing to bring the multiyear road funding measure to the floor this week. 

The House Rules Committee is meeting Monday and Tuesday to consider nearly 270 amendments that have been filled for the transportation funding bill, clearing the way for potential floor vote as early as Wednesday or Thursday. The measure calls for spending $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transit and approximately $9 billion on safety programs — but only if Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years. 

The traditional source of funding for transportation projects has been revenue that is collected by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993. The tax has struggled to keep pace with rising construction costs, resulting in an infrastructure funding gap that is estimated to be $16 billion per year. 

Some Democrats have suggested raising the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax that is traditionally used to pay for federal transportation projects. 

Ryan has said he is opposed to the idea of increasing the gas tax, however, preferring instead to try to tap corporate revenue that is housed overseas to pay for roads through a process that is known as repatriation. 

Foxx said Monday he doesn't "think there is wide political support for a gas tax increase in Congress, based on conversations I've had." 

Lawmakers are facing a Nov. 20 deadline for renewing federal transportation funding that they set last week when they passed a three-week-long temporary highway funding patch. 

Foxx said Monday he hopes the House comes up with the funding necessary to pass a "robust" highway bill this month. 

"We've had extensions of two months, three months, ten months just in the last year or so, and there are very few ten month, three month or two month projects in this country that are going to make an appreciable difference in people's travel times," he said.