Senate sends long-term highway bill to Obama for signature

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2016 -- The Senate gave final congressional approval Thursday night to a five-year, $305 billion highway bill on an 83-16 vote, hours after the House passed the measure. Now the president's signature is the only thing standing in the way of the first long-term bill in a decade.

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The House approved the measure in a bipartisan 359-65 vote, with all 65 “no” votes coming from Republicans. The bill, Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (H.R. 22), received little opposition during floor debate in the House, but the main criticism remained the mechanisms used to pay for the bill, chiefly the exclusion of any changes to the gas tax.

“We should not be popping champagne; there is no back-slapping deserved,” Wisconsin Republican Reid Ribble said on the House floor Thursday. He added that he would “reluctantly support the bill” but was “deeply discouraged by the phony pay-fors.”

The bill, which provides funding to build and upgrade the nation's road and bridges, also reauthorizes the Export-Import bank.

The bill is financed through a variety of platforms such as increasing customs taxes on goods brought into the country, selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, and withdrawing from the general fund. Ribble was critical of many of these measures. He asserted, for example that assumed prices on the SPR withdrawals were unrealistic given the current prices.


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Still, the bill received broad support from both parties in what House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., called “something that's very rare in Washington, D.C., these days . . . a truly bipartisan approach to very real problems confronting our nation.” Committee chair Bill Shuster, R-Pa., called the bill “one of the most important things this Congress can accomplish for our country.”

(Daniel Enoch contributed to this report)

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