What a week this is shaping up to be on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate had a choice to make – adopt a House-approved bill that would shore up the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015 or change things up and force another one of those all-too-familiar showdowns we’ve come to expect in Washington.
Long story short, the Senate made changes, opting to shorten the duration of the “patch” until December 2014.
In a day or so, we’ll have a better handle on which version of the patch will emerge and head for the president’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate transportation leaders say they prefer a shorter extension so that Congress can get back to doing what they should be doing for transportation – passing a four-, five- or six-year highway bill.
Forcing another vote on transportation before the end of the year could prove to be tough with this being a midterm election year.
The Senate action this week puts pressure on the House of Representatives right before both chambers are scheduled to break for a month-long recess at the close of the workday on Thursday.
House Speaker John Boehner has said his chamber will reject a portion of the Senate’s version that pays for the extension through pension tax reforms. That would shift responsibility back to the senate to vote on House changes with just hours to go before recess.
While we’re on the subject of timing, the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will begin limiting the money it pays out to states for infrastructure projects starting Friday, Aug. 1, due to shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.
If the patch does not get full approval, states will still be able to operate their transportation departments, but not at 100 percent.