WASHINGTON — Behind a slight majority of Democratic votes, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted late this afternoon to approve a $10.8 billion short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund.
The temporary lifeline for the nation’s construction workers passed 367-55, with 186 Democrats joining 181 Republicans on the vote.
The legislation, known formally as the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, was opposed by many conservatives, with both the Club For Growth and Heritage Action pressing lawmakers to oppose the vote. Forty-five of the House Republican Conference’s most conservative members opposed the vote, while 10 Democrats also voted against it.
Some critics complained that the cost of the measure, which would provide enough funding to last until the end of next May, would be offset through budget gimmicks by smoothing federal pension plans over the next decade.
But House Speaker John Boehner rejected critics, pointing to bipartisan support from the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“It means that corporations will have a longer period of time to meet their pension obligations, which means they’ll have less deductions, which means that we’ll pay higher corporate income taxes. It’s very simple,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters earlier today. “These are difficult decisions in difficult times, in an election year, but it’s important that we find a solution.”
The White House put out a statement Monday supporting passage of the measure.
“With surface transportation funding running out and hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk later this summer, the Administration supports House passage of H.R. 5021,” the statement read. “This legislation would provide for continuity of funding for the Highway Trust Fund during the height of the summer construction season and keep Americans at work repairing the Nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems.”
Given that support, its passage in the Senate is likely. A similar measure was approved by a Senate committee last week, but it has not been voted on in the full Senate.
“As soon as I can get to it, I’m going to try to set up a procedure where we have the Senate Finance Committee bill, we’ll have a vote on that,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters today, adding that Democrats could amend the House’s bill to limit funding to $8 billion. “I’m going to try to put all that together and have a few votes and hopefully get that out of here before the August recess.”
Current funding is expected to run out at the end of the month without congressional action.