The Senate voted on Tuesday to start talks with the House about a compromise highway funding measure.
Lawmakers are facing a Nov. 20 deadline for renewing federal infrastructure funding. Both chambers have passed bills that would guarantee at least three years of highway and transit spending, and the Senate voted 82-7 to begin bicameral negotiations on a potential compromise.
The highway bill that was approved by the House last week calls for spending $261 billion on highways and $55 billion on transit over six years. The legislation authorizes highway funding for six years, but only if Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years.
Lawmakers have expressed optimism that they will be able to reach an agreement in time to get a highway funding bill to President Obama's desk before the scheduled interruption in federal road funding.
"Both the Senate and the House bills have many similarities that will allow for a very short conference period," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement while the House was finishing work on its version of the highway bill.
"With this milestone, Congress should be able to send a bill to the president’s desk by Thanksgiving," he continued. "This will allow for our nation to avoid the Highway Trust Fund hitting a dangerously low level, which DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx warned would significantly affect the 2016 construction season.”