House passes temporary highway funding bill
The back-and-forth over transportation spending continued April 18 with the House’s approval of a bill to temporarily extend federal highway funding to states. But the intent of the Republican bill, which would also green light a controversial oil pipeline, is to provide a framework for negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The House bill would extend the government’s authority to spend money from the federal Highway Trust Fund, now due to expire June 30, instead through Sept. 30. The bill also would approve the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Canada to Texas. The pipeline is opposed by a majority in the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
The House bill came after Republican leaders could not garner votes to pass a long-term transportation plan approved earlier this year in the House transportation committee. That bill would have provided $260 billion in funding over five years but also would cut overall transportation funds and end the practice of dedicating a share of gasoline taxes for public transportation.
In March, the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill that would retain funding for public transportation. But House leaders said the bill did not include enough budget offsets and declined to take it up.
The impasse reflects long-standing partisan divisions over how to replenish the Highway Trust Fund that pays for roads and infrastructure projects. Congress has failed to agree on a long-term transportation plan, opting instead for nine consecutive short-term funding authorizations.