The Senate on Thursday passed a three-month highway bill extension and a multiyear package as well. So what happens now?
The former is going to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it before the July 31 deadline to keep federal fuel tax receipts flowing to the states. But the latter—which includes a range of trucking related provisions and regulatory reform—is going nowhere without the cooperation of the House of Representatives. And the House leadership has indicated they intend to develop a plan of their own ahead of the next deadline, now shuffled to Oct. 29. House conservatives are also expected to reject legislation attached to the Senate bill that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
The Senate, however, along with supporters of a long-term surface transportation authorization, weren’t going to let the political clouds on the horizon rain on the passage of the DRIVE Act.
Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member, praised the passage of the bill in a vote of 65 to 34. EPW crafted the policy portion of the package in June.
“We are proud to see such strong bipartisan support. Americans have had enough with short-term extensions and no longer want to see Congress kicking the can down the road. We now have three more months to work to advance a long-term funding solution with the House, which is ample time to break the cycle of short-term patches,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We encourage constituents, businesses, and local leaders to maximize their representatives' August work period and share the critical need for safer bridges and more efficient roads.”
The American Trucking Associations said the legislation represents “a significant step” toward addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs.
“We now look forward to working with the House of Representatives to pass a well-funded bill that provides sufficient revenue for at least six years, with the goal of moving a bill out of a House-Senate conference committee before the next expiration,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Passage of a long-term bill is well overdue, and it is past time for Congress to provide states with the certainty they need to address the enormous backlog in critical highway and bridge improvements.”