Senate

Senate ends debate on highway bill

Getty Images

The Senate ended debate on its long-term highway bill on Wednesday, paving the way for final passage this week.  

Senators voted 65-35 to invoke cloture on the six-year legislation, overcoming the final procedural hurdle facing the proposal. Unless senators agree to yield back time, a final vote on the highway bill would occur around noon Thursday. 
 
Approximately a dozen Republicans, including presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), bucked McConnell and voted against ending debate on the highway bill.
 
{mosads}Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) scolded his colleagues ahead of the vote, saying that “if we had not had our feet being dragged yesterday and if we’d yielded back some of the time … we could have a final passage today and [have it] be sent over to the House before they leave.” 
 
Supporters of the legislation were hoping to get it passed before the House leaves for the August recess on Wednesday in an effort to pressure the lower chamber, but House leadership repeatedly showed no interest in taking up the Senate’s bill. 
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) referred to the bill “with a very derogatory word that starts with the letter ‘s.’ ” 
 
Instead, the Senate is expected to take up a three-month extension of federal highway funding ahead of an end-of-the-week deadline to prevent a gap in infrastructure funds. 
 
McConnell suggested Wednesday that the move — which effectively keeps the Export-Import Bank closed — gives the House enough time to work out its own-long term bill. 
 
“Once the Senate completes its work on the bill, the House of Representatives will begin its work on a multiyear measure as well,” the Republican leader said. “A multiyear bill is now our joint goal.”
 
Under that plan, the Senate will conference its long-term bill with a proposal the House is able to agree to and pass later this year. 
 
The conference committee could add another hurdle for the long-term bill, rolled out last week by McConnell and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), which faced numerous setbacks in the Senate. 
 
Boxer made an unusual plea last week from the Senate floor for Democrats to overcome their tepid feelings about how senators wanted to pay for the legislation. 
 
Meanwhile, Republicans wanted to scale back the bill. The legislation also put a spotlight on party infighting, with McConnell and his allies in the Senate cracking down on Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
 
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, on Tuesday evening called the legislation “generational theft.” 
 
Inhofe, who helped craft the legislation, defended it Wednesday, saying that “there a lot of members in this body who didn’t think they got what they wanted in this bill. I have to tell you, I didn’t get what I wanted … and Senator Boxer didn’t get what she wanted.” 
Tags Barbara Boxer Bob Corker Boehner Harry Reid James Inhofe John Boehner Marco Rubio Mike Lee Rand Paul Ted Cruz
See all Hill.TV See all Video