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Senate sets aside short-term highway extension

The Hill

July 27, 2015

The Senate on Monday evening set aside a two-month extension of federal highway funding, as lawmakers head toward a showdown with the House on its long-term bill. 

Senators agreed by a voice vote to table a two-month extension, which was offered as an amendment to the Senate's highway bill, effectively killing the proposal for now.

The move comes as House lawmakers have shown little interest in taking up the Senate's six-year bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to ship the legislation to the lower chamber on Wednesday.   Read on…


Senate Hopes for Hail Mary with Highway Deadline Ahead


July 27, 2015

The Highway Trust Fund runs out of juice on Friday, and House lawmakers plan to leave for August recess on Thursday, having passed their own transportation funding plan already. So - obviously - Senate leaders are still working overtime to slog through their proposal, steeped now in presidential politics and reliant on a series of carefully calculated procedural moves.

Since the Senate agreed 67-26 on Sunday to move forward with debate on an amendment to reauthorize the Export-Import bank, the chamber is set to vote this evening on the amendment itself. If leaders can't get agreement to move that roll call vote to a more reasonable hour, it will happen around 9:30 p.m. and will immediately be followed by a vote to limit debate on the measure's substitute amendment.

After today: Senate leaders are expected to spend at least Tuesday and Wednesday (and maybe even Thursday) running through more debate clocks and procedural votes to get to final passage. And while they wait, there will be some behind-the-scenes discussions about whether to include some of the more than 260 amendments that have been put forth. "Time is running short to get a bill through Congress," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday: "But, as with most legislation, we still intend to consider some amendments from both sides of the aisle as we continue our work to pass it."


Exports Matter to U.S. Farmers

U.S. Grains Council

July 23, 2015

The U.S. Grains Council is pleased to release a multi-part video infographic about the impact of exports on U.S. farmers and the feed grains industry.


Editorial from USA Today: Raise the gas tax already: Our view

USA Today

July 23, 2015

Without congressional action, highway funding will come to a halt at the end of July.

America has a transportation problem. Its highways and bridges are in desperate need of repairs. Its major population centers are in desperate need of road and rail capacity to get people and products out of traffic jams. And the Highway Trust Fund — used to build and maintain those roads, bridges and transit systems — is running short of cash. Without congressional action, federally financed projects will come to a halt at the end of this month.

Unlike many problems, this one has a simple solution. The 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax hasn't been raised since 1993. Thanks to a worldwide oil glut, gas prices have dropped so far that Congress could quintuple the gas tax without pushing pump prices above where they were at this time last year. Merely restoring the tax to its 1993 level (a little more  than 30 cents in today’s dollars) and indexing it for inflation would be a big start toward a major infrastructure upgrade. And given the volatility of prices at a pump, motorists would barely notice the 12-cent increase.   Read on...


Senate clears hurdle to open debate on transportation bill


July 22, 2015

A U.S. Senate plan to fund federal highway and rail transportation projects for three years advanced on a procedural vote on Wednesday, overcoming a roadblock to begin debate on the legislation.

The 62-36 vote, coming a day after an initial attempt failed, followed hours of closed-door discussions as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell worked to bridge differences on both sides of the aisle that threatened to consign the ambitious effort to a short-term fix.

Forty-six Republicans and 16 Democrats combined forces to support the measure, which was opposed by 30 Democrats and six Republicans.

The legislation is expected to dominate Senate debate into next week but would represent the first multi-year U.S. surface transportation bill in a decade, if it succeeds.   Read on…


The gas tax is over

Survey: POLITICO’s transportation experts think we’ll pay for roads with a mileage scheme. They’re tired of “photo ops and gimmicks” instead of policy. And they like to walk.

As Congress continues divided about funding transportation reauthorization, what are others saying. Politico gathered transportation experts for just such a discussion.

What do you think?

Our roster of transportation leaders included current and former members of Congress; officials from big players like the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Trucking Association; experts from a range of universities and think tanks; an executive from one of the nation’s largest roadbuilders; and even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, surely the only respondent with an airport named after him.

As the House and Senate squabble over a way to pay for road projects and avoid the looming “highway cliff” this week, America’s transportation experts think it’s high time for Washington to take up a much bigger challenge: Rebuilding our national transportation strategy from the ground up, and finding a smart new source of money to pay for it.

With transportation-funding crises now a regular event on the Washington calendar, and Congress seemingly unable to come up with a long-term solution, The Agenda turned to a carefully selected list of more nearly three dozen leaders and experts across the public and private spheres to ask whether there was a better way for the nation to handle its crucial roads, rail, and other infrastructure.

Nearly 90 percent said the federal government should continue to play a significant role in funding highway construction, as it does now.

But when it came to what the role was – and how to pay for it – they agreed that big changes were in order. The gas tax, our main source of highway money since the 1950s, is probably doomed: Less than half believed it would still supply most of our infrastructure funding in 15 years. A third think it might never be increased again. And almost no one thought it was the best way to pay for roads.   Read on…


Senate transportation bill stumbles; McConnell undaunted


July 21, 2015

The bill was unveiled amid bipartisan fanfare from Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate. | GettyMitch McConnell isn’t backing down in his quest for a multiyear transportation bill, moving to tee up another key vote as soon as Wednesday, even in the face of a Democratic rebellion that stalled the bipartisan proposal mere hours after it was unveiled.

The Kentucky Republican has made clear he wants to move a six-year bill fast, so the House has enough time to take up the package before the August break. McConnell even threatened a rare weekend session if the Senate doesn’t wrap up work on the bill before then.

Democrats banded together Tuesday afternoon to vote against moving the bill forward over concerns that lawmakers hadn’t had time to read the 1,000-page-plus proposal. Democratic staffers even circulated emails pointing out that the bill is lengthier than 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But McConnell and other supporters of the proposal — which would fund highway and transit programs for three years — said they were undeterred and vowed to try again with another vote possible Wednesday.   Read on…


Proposed highway offsets attacked from all sides

The Hill

July 17, 2015

The potential offsets for a new round of federal transportation spending that have been proposed by lawmakers in the House and Senate are being attacked from all sides of the political spectrum.

Lawmakers are facing a July 31 deadline for the expiration of current infrastructure funding, and both chambers are proposing tapping other areas of the federal budget to help pay for an extension.

The House voted this week to approve an $8 billion extension that relies on $3 billion worth of savings from Transportation Security Administration fees and $5 billion in tax compliance measures to fund road projects through Dec. 18.

The Senate, meanwhile, is considering a longer extension that would take in roughly $80 billion in offsets, which would include $30 billion in savings from a federal employee retirement savings plan, as well as revenue from oil and spectrum sales.   Read on…