Senate passes $295B Highway bill

Despite a White House veto threat, the Senate passed its $295 billion highway bill yesterday, 89-11.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 bill would authorize funding for federal-aid highways, highway safety and transit programs. The Senate version includes $11 billion to provide additional revenue for the Highway Trust Fund as a result of an amendment offered by Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall Big Pharma must address high drug prices ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.).

The bill will now move to conference, where it will face opposition from House GOP leaders who passed their companion legislation at the White House maximum in March. The House version of the bill would cost $284 billion over the next six years. 

Congressional leaders have received pressure from highway advocacy groups and the White House to reach a compromise, since the current highway funding extension will expire May 31. The current extension is the sixth in a series passed by Congress since the original act expired in 2003.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has come out strongly against adding billions to the bill, calling the move “irresponsible” and “unacceptable.” He urged the Senate to adhere to the White House budget. House leaders have also urged conferees to pass a bill the president will sign.

Last year, the Senate passed a highway bill totaling $318 billion, but the bill stalled in conference.

A bipartisan group of senators voted against the bill, including Finance Committee member Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), John McCainJohn McCainMcCain made secret trip to Syria A guide to the committees: Senate Webb: The future of conservatism MORE (R-Ariz.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamClub for Growth launches ad targeting GOP tax writer Dem senator asks for 'top to bottom' review of Syria policy A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-S.C.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), John CornynJohn CornynRyan on border: ‘We will get this done’ Ryan tours Mexican border on horseback IPAB’s Medicare cuts will threaten seniors’ access to care MORE (R-Texas) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

Jackie Kucinich