Senate appoints negotiators for highway bill talks

Senate appoints negotiators for highway bill talks

Lawmakers in the Senate appointed negotiators for the upcoming conference on highway funding with House on Tuesday after voting to open up the bicameral talks. 

The chambers are hoping to hash out an agreement ahead of a Nov. 20 deadline for renewing federal road funding that is currently set to expire on that date. 

Leaders in the Senate appointed seven Republicans and six Democrats to sit in on the forthcoming negotiations with the House, including Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump’s policies, actions create divide on Russia New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-Okla.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerKamala Harris on 2020 presidential bid: ‘I’m not ruling it out’ The ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor MORE (D-Calif.), the top ranking lawmakers on the upper chamber's Environment and Public Works Committee. 

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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," Inhofe (R-Okla.) 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 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 warned would significantly affect the 2016 construction season.” 

Lawmakers are expected to work quickly to reach an agreement that can be approved by both chambers to get a highway funding bill to Obama's desk before the deadline next week. 

Both chambers have passed bills that would guarantee at least three years of highway and transit spending, but only if Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years. 

The highway bill that was approved by the House on Thursday calls for spending $261 billion on highways and $55 billion on transit over six years. The legislation authorizes highway funding for six years. The Senate passed a similar piece of legislation that contained three years' worth of guaranteed highway funding in July. 

The Senate voted 82-7 to begin bicameral negotiations on a potential compromise. 

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