HOUSE PASSES $11 BILLION HIGHWAY PATCH TO MAY 31, 2015

SOURCE: TRANSPORTATION WEEKLY
UPDATE – HOUSE PASSES $11 BILLION HIGHWAY PATCH TO MAY 31, 2015
TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014 – 5:00 P.M.

The House of Representatives has easily passed H.R. 5021, an $11 billion Highway Trust Fund bailout which also extends current-law highway and mass transit funding levels to May 2015, by a vote of 367 to 55. 181 Republicans and 186 Democrats voted for the bill, while 45 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against. The legislation now heads to the Senate.

Earlier in debate, the House rejected a motion by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to amend the bill to shorten the highway and transit contract authority extensions so that they expire on December 31, 2014 instead of May 31, 2015. His motion failed on a almost totally party-line vote of 193 yeas to 227 nays. (All 193 “yes” votes were Democrats while 224 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “no.”)

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Reid hopes to take it up before the August recess and, if the Senate is willing, amend it.

H.R. 5021 as passed by the House has two titles. Title I is the extension of MAP-21 programs and policies and an extension of contract authority for highway, transit and safety programs from October 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015 (from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee). Title II is the $11 billion HTF bailout, revenue offsets, and extension of Highway Trust Fund expenditure authority (also to May 31, 2015) from the Ways and Means Committee.

We believe that Majority Leader Reid would try to take up H.R. 5021 on the Senate floor and then have two amendments to be offered – an amendment offered jointly by EPW chairman Boxer, Banking chairman Johnson and Commerce chairman Rockefeller to replace title I with substantially identical language that only extends those programs and funding to December 31, 2014 instead of May 31, 2015, and a second amendment by Finance chairman Wyden that would replace the House Ways and Means title II with the different $11 billion package reported from his Finance committee.

If both amendments are defeated, the Senate would then vote to send H.R. 5021 straight to the President, but if either or both amendment were adopted, then the bill would pass the amended bill and send it back to the House for consideration of the Senate amendment(s).

HOWEVER, getting the amendment process on the Senate floor organized that cleanly would probably require unanimous consent, and in today’s Senate, that is always difficult. If the amendment process cannot be organized cleanly, then no one is quite sure what will become of the legislation.

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