Chaos reigns on Capitol Hill

By |  July 27, 2015

Talk is cheap. And boy do members of the House and Senate like to talk.

Especially when it comes to passage of a multi-year highway bill, which aggregate producers and their advocates continuously say would provide them with additional business opportunities and instill in them the necessary confidence to make long-term investments.

Congress has been talking a lot this summer about finally passing a multi-year highway bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is steering the latest movement for one. He faces a Friday deadline to get a six-year measure that’s currently on the Senate floor through both chambers of Congress.

House Republicans put up a wall against the Senate proposal Monday, though, because of an amendment attached to the bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says the House will not take up the long-term proposal because of the amendment. In addition, McCarthy says the House plans to recess Thursday – the day before the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire.

A final vote on the Export-Import Bank amendment was expected Monday in the Senate, according to The Hill.

Another proposed amendment to the Senate’s six-year bill emerged Monday, when Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) filed one that would limit highway funding to three years.

In fact, as The Hill reports, the Senate bill is a six-year plan that only includes three years of committed funds.

“Only in Washington could you square a six-year bill with only three years of funding,” says Flake, who, along with Scott, is a past recipient of donations from ROCKPAC, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s political action committee. “Rather than find itself staring down another fiscal cliff in short order, the Senate ought to exercise some fiscal responsibility now.”

If the Senate’s bill isn’t passed – and based on McCarthy’s remark it won’t be – another highway-funding patch is the likely outcome. The House previously passed a five-month bill that the Senate could take up and pass this week to ensure the Highway Trust Fund does not run out.

The Hill previously reported that the Senate was expected to debate the highway bill by Wednesday and possibly finish it by the day’s end. The bill would then be sent to the House.

Unfortunately for aggregate producers, they’ve heard this all before: A deadline approaches. Media reports surface of congressional activity on a highway bill. And then yet another patch is affixed to the Highway Trust Fund, putting off talks of a five- or six-year bill for another few months.

Aggregate producers and transportation advocates hope the talks cease this week and that action prevails. But the latest developments point toward another short-term patch to the Highway Trust Fund.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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