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Reid does deal with GOP to extend Highway Trust Fund

A final vote on the underlying House bill, which is backed by the White House, could come Thursday.

The Trucker News Services

7/23/2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced a deal with Republicans on Wednesday that paves the way for a final vote on a bill to fund federal transportation projects through next spring.

The deal will allow votes on an alternative bill offered by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Tom Carper, D-Del., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would fund the federal Highway Trust Fund only until Dec. 31, The Hill reported.

It also sets up a vote on amendments offered by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa..

A final vote on the underlying House bill, which is backed by the White House, could come Thursday.

The House bill would provide $10.9 billion to fund projects. It would use a number of offsets to pay for the costs of the bill. Without action by Congress, the fund would have gone bankrupt next month, ending funding for projects.

“Allowing the Highway Trust Fund to run dry would slam the breaks on critical infrastructure projects across the land,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. “It is nonnegotiable that Congress is going to prevent that from happening.”

The trust fund gets its money from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which has struggled to keep up with the need for infrastructure spending projects as cars grow more fuel-efficient.

Most of the costs of the House bill are offset through "pension smoothing," which some senators in both parties have derided as a budget gimmick. Those senators want to only extend funding until December so that Congress is under pressure to work on a long-term highway bill after the midterm elections.

“Many claim that budget gimmicks should not be used as offsets to pay for spending.” Corker said. “I have long been against the disgraceful practice of spending money today and paying for it in the future. It’s shameful; it’s irresponsible; and it’s generational theft.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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