Senate to try to pass 30-day highway bill Saturday after GOP objection
The Senate will reconvene on Saturday to try to pass a short-term extension of federal highway programs after a GOP roadblock prevented what was expected to be a glide path to President Biden’s desk.
The Senate was on standby for hours Friday with the expectation that it would try to quickly approve a 30-day extension once the stopgap bill passed the House, where it cleared in a 365-51 vote on Friday night.
But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), appearing on the Senate floor as the House was voting, indicated that they didn’t yet have buy-in from all 100 senators. The Senate largely left town on Thursday, but any one senator can still prevent the highway funding patch from being sent to Biden quickly.
“It is my understanding that the House is going to send the Senate a 30-day extension of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. Republicans cannot clear it tonight. Therefore, we will come back tomorrow and try to pass it then,” Wyden said.
The Senate will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Aides didn’t immediately respond to questions about the hold up, but without consent the bill could be dragged out for days.
The Department of Transportation furloughed roughly 3,700 workers on Friday after Congress failed to pass an extension of federal highway funding by an end-of-September deadline amid a stalemate in the House on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this year made a deal with a group of House moderates to bring the Senate infrastructure bill up for a vote by Sept. 27, which would have cleared in time to prevent a funding lapse.
But the timing of the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, which included the highway funds, looked increasingly uncertain amid high-profile infighting between moderates, who want to quickly pass the legislation, and progressives, who have vowed to sink it without a sweeping social spending bill.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the top members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, began talking earlier this week about putting together a possible short-term reauthorization.
“Senator Capito would have strongly preferred that the House Democrats passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the schedule they promised. She nonetheless supports the extension and is working with her colleagues to see it pass the Senate,” Kelley Moore, a spokesperson for Capito, said on Friday night.
The Monday House vote on the Senate bill was initially pushed to Thursday, putting it up against the deadline to prevent a lapse in the highway funding.
Democratic leadership and the White House had hoped the extra time could secure a deal on a framework for the social spending bill that would convince progressives to quickly pass the Senate’s infrastructure bill. But instead, the House delayed Thursday’s vote to Friday, when the House schedule was in limbo for most of the day.
Biden made a trip to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with House Democrats, but the closed-door powwow appeared to do little to get the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the White House helped negotiate, unstuck.
Pelosi in a letter to her caucus on Friday night said negotiations between the House, Senate and White House on the reconciliation bill have made “great progress,” but that “more time is needed to complete the task.”
“Our Chairs are still working for clarity and consensus. Clearly, the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill will pass once we have agreement on the reconciliation bill,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.