WASHINGTON - House lawmakers voted 363 to 68 late yesterday to approve a bill that would provide $7 billion to the highway trust fund and keep money flowing to states through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The proposal, which was introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., originally would have provided $5 billion of general funds to the trust fund, but was increased to $7 billion with the understanding that the Senate also would approve the measure, sources said.
The House is scheduled to adjourn at the end of this week for a month-long recess, but the Senate will be in session next week and could approve the measure before it adjourns.
After returning from the recess, the Senate is expected to take up legislation that would extend the current transportation law by 18 months. That proposal has already been approved by three Senate committees. The extension was requested by the Obama administration in order to keep transportation spending continuing at current levels while Congress decides on a multi-year bill to replace the current law.
House and Senate approval of the trust fund injection would "provide a six-week extension of the debate over the extension," said David Bauer, senior lobbyist for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The $7 billion cash infusion to the trust fund "in no way changes the dynamic of what was initiated by the administration and what the Senate is trying to propound," he said.
However, several senators who oppose the 18-month extension are considering taking advantage of a parliamentary tactic that gives a single senator the ability to anonymously put a hold on legislation.