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November 30, 2015

Highway Funding Tops Agenda in Congress


Lawmakers return to Washington this week to address a handful of high priority items, chief among them is legislation funding the nation's transportation infrastructure and averting a government shutdown. With roughly 11 working days remaining on the 2015 calendar, two deadlines loom large.  On December 4, current transportation funding expires and road construction projects nationwide will be impacted unless House and Senate negotiators can pass compromise language in their respective chambers.  Further complicating the political process is a second deadline on December 11.  On that date, temporary funding for federal agencies will expire and must be reauthorized by Congress in order to avoid a government shutdown.

The insider D.C. publication The Hill lays out the scenario.

The first deadline lawmakers face is passing a long-term infrastructure bill after approving another short-term funding patch before leaving for Thanksgiving.

Lawmakers only have a matter of days to get a long-term deal and avoid a shutdown of federal highway funding, with the current patch set to expire on Friday, Dec. 4.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) initially expressed optimism that House and Senate bills could be reconciled “in a matter of hours,” and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) declared separately that the recently passed short-term measure would be the “last extension.”

But lawmakers have gotten bogged down in negotiations over how to reconcile differences in the two bills. They’re also facing pressure from conservative groups to drop language reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank’s charter and skepticism from Republican lawmakers over only guaranteeing three years of funding for a six-year bill.

Inhofe, however, remains optimistic that negotiators will be able to seal an agreement, telling The Oklahoman that lawmakers “are very close to a product that country has needed for far too long.”


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