House seeks $7 billion for Highway Trust Fund

| 7/29/2009

The U.S. House has passed a $7 billion transfer from the Treasury to shore up the Highway Trust Fund in the short term.

House lawmakers led by Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, said the bill, HR3357, was necessary to save the Trust Fund from going broke. Congress passed a similar measure in 2008, transferring $8 billion back to the Trust Fund, which had been previously diverted to the Treasury in 1998.

Lawmakers voted 363-68 in favor of HR3357 on Wednesday, July 29, giving it a two-thirds majority necessary to suspend House rules in time for the scheduled recess at the end of this week. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is scheduled to recess next week.

With a short-term infusion in the pipeline for the Trust Fund, concerns remain in the House and Senate over long-term funding for the next highway authorization bill.

U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, supported the $7 billion infusion, saying he does not support a measure backed by the Senate to extend current transportation programs by 18 months.

“This is an infusion, not an extension,” Oberstar told the House during debate. “We are not standing for the other body or the administration for an extension.”

Oberstar and fellow T&I committee members Peter DeFazio, D-OR, and John Mica, R-FL, used debate time Wednesday to promote a $450 billion authorization bill currently being considered in their committee.

Senate leaders, meanwhile, continue to urge Congress to extend the current authorization program known as SAFETEA-LU by 18 months. They say more time is needed to craft the Senate version of a long-term authorization.

– By David Tanner, staff writer