Thursday, October 1, 2009

Highway Fund Compromise Hits The Guardrail - Continuing Resolution To The Rescue

The Senate and House leaders could not resolve their 11th hour differences over a three month extension of the federal Highway Trust Fund in time to beat the stroke of midnight last night, so the 2005 reauthorization's recission of $8.7 billion in unspent appropriations will take effect until both houses can send a conference committee bill of some sort to the Oval Office. The Senate's three month extension bill, including a reversal of the recission of unspent money, failed to pass by unanimous consent, with Republican senators wanting to fund the recission reversal with unspent construction stimulus money, while the Democrats wanted to use unspent TARP funds to pay the highway trust fund bill.

Had the Senate passed its version of the measure, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar would have scotched any chance of final legislative action, since the House version did not include a reversal of the unspent funds recission, due to House rules on pay as you go legislation.

Nevertheless, Congress did arrange another month to work on resolving House and Senate differences by sending the Legislative Branch appropriations bill to the Oval Office for signature last night, including a 31 day continuing resolution extending all government funding at current levels, with some increases for Veterans Health Administration and the Cencus Bureau. On a floor vote of 61-39 the Senate also included a provision permitting the Postal Service to defer a namdated $4 billion contribution to fund retiree health benefits. Isn't it interesting how the end of the fiscal year produces so much eleventh hour legislation robbing Peter to pay Paul?
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