The Senate, with a large bipartisan majority, passed (79–18) legislation Tuesday to keep money flowing into the Highway Trust Fund and keep hundreds of thousands of workers on the job building and repairing the nation’s highways, bridges and other transportation projects. It also sets the stage for coming to an agreement for a long-term solution before the year is out. But House Republican leaders say they will not vote on the Senate bill.
The Highway Trust Fund runs out of money Aug. 1 and if Congress, due to leave town for a five-week summer recess at the end of the week, doesn’t agree on a plan by Friday, thousands of vital infrastructure projects will be frozen or canceled.
The Senate bill extends funding through December and its chief sponsors, including Sens. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said the plan would force this Congress to come up with a longer-term solution for highway funding rather than kick the can down the road to next year as the House bill does.
This month, in a letter to Congress, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel said:
Passing a multi-year authorization this year will provide employment stability, improve our transportation infrastructure and give states the certainty they need for long-term planning.
The Senate bill also stripped a funding provision known as “pension smoothing” from the House-passed version that would allow corporations to contribute less to employee pensions.
The Highway Trust Fund supports more than 2 million jobs each year and if Congress doesn’t close the funding gap, more than 700,000 middle-class jobs building the nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems will be at risk. Funding our nation’s infrastructure is one of the most fundamental things Congress is tasked with and it lays the foundation for a strong and growing economy.