The House on Thursday voted by a large margin to continue funding and spending authority for surface transportation program through May 2015 as it prepared to adjourn later in the day.
The 272 votes to insist on the House version of the highway extension bill (H.R. 5021) included 45 Democrats and all but two Republicans.
The House had been planning to adjourn immediately, but it hit a snag over an unrelated issue. In any event, there’s no indication that the House would be willing or even able to consider a Senate-passed bill until September.
As of Thursday afternoon, therefore, the Senate faced a choice: Let the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) run out of cash or pass the House version of the highway extension bill (H.R. 5021) and give up on any realistic chance for a longer-term measure this year.
Virtually nobody expects the Senate to allow the HTF run out of cash.
On Tuesday, 66 senators voted to shorten the duration of the extension to Dec. 19 to force another vote this year – probably during a lame-duck session following the November election. That move could have opened the door to a broader deal that could even have included increased fuel taxes.