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House Passes Short-Term Highway Trust Fund Fix

The House on Tuesday approved a short-term patch for the Highway Trust Fund with overwhelming bipartisan support, despite lawmakers’ frustrations that the measure failed to achieve a long-term fix for highway infrastructure spending.

Despite the strong support – HR 5021 passed by a vote of 367-55 – both Democrats and Republicans voiced their dissatisfaction that a long-term solution could not be found.

“It is an embarrassing expression of congressional dysfunction that we can’t come up with a long-term fix to the highway trust fund,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told the Huffington Post after he voted against the patch. “It is within our reality to create a long-term plan. My vote is a protest.”

The chair of the highways and transit panel of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee joined in his criticism.

“We need to stop the patches and budget gimmicks and come up with a viable, real solution on how we fund the Trust Fund,” said Tom Petri (R-Wis.). “In this case, we have an obligation to keep our highway projects going, our transportation moving, and our economy growing.  Since this is the only option we have today, that is what we will do.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the vote, along with the President’s support for the measure. “We certainly hope he will urge Senate Democrats to pass this bill so we can prevent highway projects from shutting down in a matter of weeks,” Boehner said, reported the New York Times.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) likely will bring several versions of the short-term fix to the floor for a vote, including the House’s,  a measure passed by the Senate Finance Committee, and a proposal by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would extend the trust fund only into the lame-duck session.

In a visit to a transportation research center in a Washington, D.C., suburb, President Obama noted the House vote.

“Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis,” Obama said. “Do something: That’s my big motto for Congress right now. Just do something.”

Obama’s visit came as part of a White House media campaign highlighting a report released Tuesday detailing the economic impact of infrastructure spending. On Thursday, he will travel to Delaware to discuss private-sector investment in infrastructure.

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