ROADS/BRIDGES: Senate, House skirmish puts highway funding in grave danger

After $8.1 billion measure with amendments passes, House threatens to strip changes and send original back to Senate

July 30, 2014

Lawmakers in Washington are picking a fight on the playground before recess has begun.

At stake is the Highway Trust Fund, which will reach a dangerously low level in August. Both the House and Senate traded jabs on July 29 following the Senate’s passage of an $8.1 billion extension of MAP-21. A few amendments were made to the $10.9 billion House bill that was passed a couple of weeks ago, creating a standoff right before Congress breaks for a recess.

The Senate wants the extension to end on Dec. 31 and force the hand of a lame duck Congress, while the House version sets a May 2015 deadline. The way the bill is funded also is under debate. The House wants pension account changes to create a good chunk of the money, but the Senate did not include such a move, choosing instead to raise revenue by improving tax compliance such as increased reporting requirements for mortgage interest deductions.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his chamber would remove the amendments of the rival bill and send the original back to the Senate. If a funding extension is not passed before the recess, the U.S. DOT said it will begin to curtail payments from the fund to states by as much as 30% starting on Aug. 1.