Senate begins debate on highway bill, setting up weekend session
© Francis Rivera

The Senate on Friday formally started debate on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE’s six-year highway bill, setting up a weekend session and putting the chamber on a collision course with the House.

Senators voted to proceed to the bill negotiated by McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.) in a 51-26 vote that split both parties.  

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McConnell wants to quickly wrap up work on the legislation by Wednesday so that it can be sent to the House, which is scheduled to begin its August recess at the end of next week.

House Republicans prefer a five-month extension of highway spending already approved by the lower chamber. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the Senate bill “won’t fly” in the House.

Democrats in the House have also voiced opposition to the Senate bill.

Authority for highway spending will expire at the end of the month without action by Congress.

Boxer on Thursday pleaded from the Senate floor for her colleagues to put aside their differences on the highway bill and realize that it was better than a short-term fix. 

“We need more votes. We need this to happen,” she said. “I say to my colleagues on both sides, and have said it to my own caucus earlier in the day, nobody is going to love every page in this bill.”

McConnell is expected to allow a vote on an amendment to the measure that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. That will make the package even more controversial in the House, where a sizeable number of conservatives do not want to see the bank resurrected after its charter expired at the end of last month.

The Senate majority leader is also expected to offer an amendment to repeal ObamaCare on Friday. The move, while unlikely to be successful, will give Republican lawmakers a chance to vote on a key campaign promise of rolling back President Obama's signature healthcare law. 

McConnell will file cloture on the amendment, as well as a separate amendment from Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (R-Ill.), setting up likely votes on Sunday.

Several Senate Republicans are hoping to attach a handful of controversial amendments to the legislation that, if successful, could also sink the bill.

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Eye-popping number of Dems: I can beat Trump 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran US ambassador to Germany ruffles State Department with budget stand Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE (R-Ky.) want to attach an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood.