Senate Sends Highway Patch to the President, Heads for August Recess

Posted July 31, 2014 at 9:13pm

Updated 9:25 a.m. | The Senate cleared a $10.8 billion House bill patching the Highway Trust Fund to the president’s desk Thursday in its last legislative vote before heading out of town for the August recess.  

The Senate will still be in session Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, but the Nevada Democrat said after Thursday the next roll call vote would not occur until September.  

With the highway bill passing 81-13 and a VA bill also cleared for the president’s desk , but a border supplemental blocked by the GOP , Congress cleared two of the three major legislative items leaders had hoped to accomplish this week. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who also voted against the VA bill, ripped the highway bill as paid for by gimmickry.  

“The $10 billion transfer is spent within a few months but paid for over 10 years using budget gimmicks,” he said.  

“It’s sad that the default mode in Congress is to pass one short-term patch after another, burdening our states, cities and future generations with the consequences of our irresponsibility,” Corker said.  

The House had voted 272-150 to send the original House bill back to the Senate , with 227 Republicans and 45 Democrats once again supporting the measure. Democrats had been considering voting down the highway bill  in a gambit meant to force Republicans to accept the Senate changes, but that plan never quite materialized.  

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 79-18 to change some of the offsets in the bill and the length of the measure from May to December. The idea was to force Congress to find a more permanent solution in the lame-duck session. But all along, Senate Democrats made clear they weren’t about to be left to be blamed for a partial shutdown of highway projects across the country, which could have sent as many as 700,000 workers off the job before the midterm elections.  

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.