Where are we on that pesky Highway Bill? Update by AEM

We have a bill. We don’t have a bill.

 Senators McConnell, Inhofe and Boxer announced a deal on a bipartisan, six-year highway bill late Tuesday morning after a weekend full of negotiating over ways to pay for it. But the legislation hit a procedural snag after Democrats blocked proceeding to the agreement because the text of the bill hadn’t been released until a few minutes before the scheduled cloture vote.

The vote was 41-56, after which Sen. McConnell (who voted no for procedural reasons) immediately entered a motion to reconsider, setting up another attempt at a Motion to Proceed (MTP) as soon as tomorrow. McConnell further suggested the Senate may work into the weekend to complete its work on highways.

But we do have pay-fors.

The agreement includes about $45 billion in funding offsets, good enough to finance about three years (or half) of the six-year bill. Some of the biggest offsets include:

  •  $16.3 billion from cutting the dividend rate paid by the Federal Reserve to large banks
  • $9.0 billion from selling off a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)
  • $4.0 billion from indexing customs user fees to inflation (Funny how indexing certain user fees is now so popular in Congress…)

You can find a full summary of the offsets, courtesy of our friend from the Senate Finance Committee, here.

 Where do we go now?

Senator Reid said that Democrats will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the specifics of the highway bill. Senator Boxer urged fellow Democrats to vote yes on cloture tomorrow: “I hope that tomorrow we’ll be able to join with our friends and vote to proceed.”

And though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that the Senate should take up the House bill, Senator McConnell — who hardly ever offers offhanded comments — said he expected the House would take up a long-term bill if it is passed out of the Senate: “If we can get this bill over to the House, it is my belief they will take it up.”

 What’s business doing?

 AEM joined 67 other groups in signing a letter in support of today’s agreement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among other groups, also urged senators to support cloture.

 AEM and its coalition partners are going to continue to enlist our respective memberships to call and email Congress to urge work toward advancing a multi-year transportation bill. In the last 24 hours alone, AEM’s grassroots supporters have sent 1,400 emails to Congress in support of a long-term highway bill.

For more info on AEM, visit its website right over here. 

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