"We're not taking up the Senate bill," McCarthy flatly told reporters at the Capitol
The federal program funding bridge, road and transit projects is due to run out of money at the end of the week
House Republicans are moving ahead with their proposal to extend highway funding, ignoring their Senate counterparts and instead plan to pass a three-month extension Wednesday.
Speaker John Boehner told his members in a closed door meeting Tuesday that the House would vote on a three-month extension Wedensday. House leaders have canceled votes Thursday and are now planning to leave town early to start their August recess.
The House vote Wednesday will happen before the Senate even finishes debating their long term bill so House members are essentially leaving Senate leaders with no option – either they take the three month bill or risk shutting down road and bridge projects across the country.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday ruled out the House voting on the bipartisan Senate bill, setting up a clash between the Republican-led House and Senate.
“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” McCarthy flatly told reporters at the Capitol.
The federal program funding bridge, road and transit projects is due to run out of money at the end of the week. If Congress isn’t able to resolve the impasse, thousands of projects around the country could be put on hold during the busy summer construction season, potentially resulting in significant job losses.
Boehner admitted he has not coordinated this with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Boehner aides say they discussed the plan with McConnell’s staff, but it’s still unclear whether they will accept it.
Many House conservatives have criticized the Senate highway bill because it continues the program for six years, but only provides enough money to cover the first three. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan has been working on a six-year bill that uses changes in the tax code to offset the total cost.
Complicating the debate is an effort to revive the Export-Import Bank, the 80-year-old credit agency that gives out loans to companies to promote U.S. exports. The bank’s charter expired last month, but the Senate is adding an amendment to the highway measure that renews the authority for the bank.
McCarthy and the bulk of House Republicans, however, want the bank to stay dormant. Conservatives cite the Export-Import Bank as an example of corporate welfare, and maintain companies should be getting financing through the private sector, not through government-backed loans.
McCarthy argued that the Senate needs to pass the bill the House approved earlier this month, which gives the highway trust fund enough resources through Dec. 18 and does not address the Export-Import Bank.
“If you have it already sitting in the Senate and it’s clean, why wouldn’t you take that?” he asked.
McCarthy maintained the House bill would allow leaders of both chambers to work out the details on a broader multi-year highway bill. He dismissed the idea of voting on some other short-term extension, like a one- or two-month bill, because that approach costs almost as much as the legislation already passed by the House, he said.
Without a House vote on the Senate highway measure, the Export-Import Bank remains essentially shuttered. It can process existing loans, but cannot extend any new credit.
The new House bill also contains some money for the Veterans Administration – money to address a shortfall the department told Congress posed an emergency.