McConnell signals Senate will pick up House highway bill

McConnell signals Senate will pick up House highway bill
© Francis Rivera

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday signaled the Senate will take up the House’s three-month highway bill.

“We'll see when we get it, and we'll see how quickly we can take it up,” he told reporters in response to a question about when the measure would get a vote in the Senate.

ADVERTISEMENT

House Republicans earlier on Tuesday said they would pass the short-term extension and then leave Washington for the August recess on Wednesday. 

The Senate is continuing its work on a six-year funding bill, which the House has shown little interest in taking up. 

McConnell cast the three-month bill as an effort by the House to move toward adopting their own long-term highway funding bill, which could then be considered in conference with the Senate.

The House “has decided to process a multi-year highway bill of their own” which would then go to conference with the Senate's bill, he said. 

Other GOP Senate leaders made similar comments.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said "we're pleased that they seem to agree with us that a multi-year highway bill is important," while Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters the House wouldn't have taken the step if the Senate hadn't pushed to do a long-term bill.

Democrats appeared to be open to the three-month extension — even though it will keep the Export-Import Bank's charter from being renewed. The six-year Senate bill included a five-year extension of Ex-Im. 
 
Sen. Charles Schumer slammed Republicans for leaving "Ex-Im shuttered for the summer," but suggested the short-term highway bill would win Democratic support.
 
"Well we don't want to compound the injury and shut down the highway bill to, but we're going to keep pushing for Ex-Im," the New York Democrat said. 
 
Highway funding would expire at the end of the week without action by Congress. 
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pointed out that the short-term House bill includes funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. 
 
"It's my understanding that the short-term highway bill has something that is very beneficial to veterans," he said. "If that's the case it will move out of here fairly quickly," he said. 
 
The House bill, which would provide funding for highways through Oct. 29, includes provisions to help the Veterans Affairs Department address its budget shortfall. 

This story was updated at 3:41 p.m.