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House Won't Consider Senate Highway Bill

July 27, 2015, by Deborah Lockridge

Barbara Boxer: "if we have a bill, we're sending it." 
Barbara Boxer: "if we have a bill, we're sending it."

UPDATED -- An issue unrelated to transportation has prompted the House to declare the Senate highway bill (which has yet to win passage) dead on arrival.

The Senate bill, a six-year highway bill that actually only funds the first three years, would revive the expired Export-Import Bank. Because of that, reports The Hill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Monday said the House will not vote on the Senate bill.

Instead, McCarthy says the Senate should take up the short-term House bill, yet another kick-the-can-down-the-road patch, this one for five months.

The Export-Import Bank is an 81-year-old institution that provides loan guarantees to help U.S. corporations sell goods overseas. Its charter expired on June 30. Conservatives say it's corporate welfare.

Nevertheless, the Senate voted to include the Export-Import Bank amendment Monday just hours after McCarthy's comments, leading GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas) to blast the Senate for "casting votes in favor of cronyism and special interests," reports Fox News.

The Senate also set aside a two-month extension of federal highway funding that had been offered as an amendment, effectively killing the proposal for now, reports The Hill, and moving the six-year bill forward.

The Senate bill is a bipartisan effort led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who helped broker a deal on the legislation, pointed to that bipartisan support in urging House lawmakers to take up the Senate bill.

“I am confident we will have this legislation ready for the House before the July 31 deadline," Inhofe said in a statement after the vote. "It is my hope that the House will reconsider taking up this bipartisan piece of legislation that gives long-term funding certainty for our nation’s highway system, the backbone of our economy."

The House leaves for August recess on Thursday. McCarthy said it's not fair for the Senate to send the House a 1,000-plus-page bill days before the July 31 funding deadline.

Boxer, however, said in response, "if we have a bill, we're sending it." 

“You know what, we’re staying an extra week in August. You can stay an extra week in August," she said in a speech on the Senate floor, according to published reports. " That’s not such a terrible thing."

However, reports the Associated Press, McCarthy flatly told reporters, "We are set to depart on Thursday."

McConnell wants to get this legislation out of the way at least through next year's elections.

The Senate bill also contains a number of provisions affecting trucking beyond highways, such as allowing states to get together and create pilot programs to allow younger drivers to truck interstate, and addressing concerns with the Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program.

Authority for federal highway aid payments to states will expire Friday at midnight if the highway program is not extended, as the balance in the Highway Trust Fund is projected to drop below the $4 billion minimum needed to keep money flowing to the states.

What fix Congress will find by the end of the week is unknown. One possibility is an even shorter-term extension than what the House passed.

Updated 9:20 a.m. EDT 7/27 to add actions taken late Monday evening.

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  1. 1. Richard [ July 28, 2015 @ 04:18AM ]

    I'm glad it died, most particularly due to the attempt to allow younger drivers. This was just more exploitation by the ATA. They can't keep drivers in the seats because of low pay so they tried to recruit drivers right out of high school with no financial obligations. There is no "driver shortage". There is only a shortage of drivers willing to work 60+ hours a week to make a pay less than what the average American earns in 40 hours.
    The huge number of job losses several of years ago sent tens of thousands of desperate people to CDL schools to try to become truck drivers. Over 80% of them had to leave the industry within a few months because they couldn't survive on the low pay. CDL schools made huge profits and truckload carriers had a steady supply of trainees that would work as team drivers for 4 to 6 weeks at low trainee pay.
    I've from KY and wrote to Mich McConnel and told him the exploitation of trainees needed to stop. I used Werner for an example. They brag about hiring over 5,000 veterans in the last 5 years. No doubt they hired thousands more that weren't veterans. Yet their annual report shows during those 3 years they had around 6,400 trucks. They didn't increase their fleet size. What happened to those tens of thousands of trainees?

  2. 2. Truckguy [ July 28, 2015 @ 05:15AM ]

    It's extremely frustrating to see all these unrelated riders get attached to something as critical as highway funding. Keep this in mind when election time rolls around.

  3. 3. Tom Bosch [ July 28, 2015 @ 05:22AM ]

    Business as usual in D.C.

  4. 4. CT [ July 28, 2015 @ 05:37AM ]

    This is purely the Senate's fault (Mitch McConnel & Barbara Boxer) to attach something as ridiculous and dead as the Export-Import Bank issue.
    These multi-term, lifelong politicians must go. Vote them out and set term limits. There is a reason why the POTUS has term limits; they are not kings and queens. Time for them to go...

  5. 5. J Stephens [ July 28, 2015 @ 05:44AM ]

    From what I can make of the senate's bill this is not any more of a solution than a short term extension, maybe worse. This is a 6 year bill but only funded for 3. It raises taxes on several fronts, while not actually raising enough money to fund itself for the 3. It mandates about 20% to bike paths and alternate transportation. It also gives money to cities for new public transportation measures. This would not make a difference to the actual problems with roads and bridges, just more pork.


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