Democrats pour cold water on stopgap highway funding extension

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Senate Democrats are giving Republicans 45 days to negotiate a long-term highway funding extension, adding that another short-term fix will face a tough road in the upper chamber.

{mosads}“The bottom line is we’re asking them to meet our timetable. If they don’t meet this timetable, it will be very hard for us to do another short-term extension,” Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, told reporters Tuesday.

“We do not want a 34th short-term extension of this bill — this program,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.). “We need Republicans to sit down with us, sit down together — don’t do it on their own. We don’t want to do it on our own, we want to sit down with them and negotiate the solution.”

The Highway Trust Fund is due to run out of money at the end of July. Congress has passed 33 short-term extensions over the past six years to keep road projects funded.

Democrats want to pay for a multi-year extension of the fund with President Obama’s proposal to tax overseas corporate profits.

In his budget plan for fiscal year 2016, Obama called for a one-time 14 percent tax on approximately $2 trillion in corporate profits sitting abroad. The plan would also impose a 19 percent tax on U.S. companies’ future foreign earnings.

Taxing overseas profits would generate $238 billion. The rest of the infrastructure program described in Obama’s budget would be paid for by the federal gas tax.

Senate Democrats sent a letter to their Republican colleagues Tuesday laying out a plan to avoid a shutdown of transportation construction projects.

The letter calls on the four Senate committees of jurisdiction to hold legislative hearings by the beginning of next week and complete markups of a long-term transportation bill during the first week of July.

Democrats want a multi-year bill that substantially increases funding for states and cities on the floor by the middle of July.

The Highway Trust Fund was set to expire on May 31 but Congress passed a two-month extension before leaving for the Memorial Day recess.

“We’re going to keep at this every day and every week,” Schumer said. “This is going to be an issue that we keep coming at again, again and again until we bring our Republican colleagues to the table.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, said he and his colleagues are putting forth “a specific timetable for action.”

–This report was updated at 3:19 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Harry Reid Ron Wyden

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