Traffic Jam: Highway Funding Bill Still in Limbo

The House has voted, 272-150, to disagree with a Senate version of a major highway funding bill, keeping the legislation in limbo as the clock ticks towards Congress's August recess.

The House version of the bill now goes back to the Senate, where lawmakers must decide whether to take up that version or not. If Congress fails to act to fund the Highway Trust Fund, highway funding could be drastically curtailed next month.

The Senate version scaled back funding for federal highway programs from the $10.8 billion the House approved to $8.1 billion, bringing the deadline for Congress to act on a long-term solution from May of 2015 to December of this year. The move is seen as an effort not only to keep Congress' feet to the fire in terms of a long-term solution, but also as a way for Democrats to assure they are part of the negotiations as the majority party if they lose control of the Senate.

Many Senators did not approve of the way the House bill is paid for, particularly one provision called "pension smoothing," which is widely considered a gimmick that allows companies to defer contributions to pension plans in the near term, which means employees pay more taxes on wages.


- Frank Thorp