The House Unveils Another Highway Bill, Still Doesn’t Know How to Pay For It

Written by SK Ashby

If it feels like you've seen this movie before, it's because we have.

A long-term highway funding bill (as well as a host of other appropriations bills) was abandoned over the Summer because the House and Senate could not agree on a way to pay for it, and House Republicans couldn't even agree on how to pay for it within their own caucus. As you may recall, some radical congressional Republicans even proposed that we defund the entire system.

The House has unveiled a new long-term 6-year highway funding bill, but there's a catch.

The measure would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transit and approximately $9 billion on safety programs, but only if Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years, according to a bipartisan group of Transportation Committee aides.

No, there's another catch.

Given the steadfast opposition to raising the gas tax to pay for it, Republicans must consider other alternatives.

Congress has turned to other areas of the federal budget to close the gap, and House aides said Friday that the chamber's Ways and Means Committee will have to identify a set of offsets for the new highway bill before it can move forward.

The new bill would include 3 years of "guaranteed" funding, leaving the next Congress with the duty of figuring out how to pay for the following 3 years. There's nothing "guaranteed" about the first 3 years of funding, however, because House Republicans still haven't figured out how to pay for that either.

I suppose it's possible Chairman Paul Ryan and other Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee will devise a way to pay for our nation's infrastructure that is acceptable to the Freedom Caucus, to House Democrats, to Grover Norquist, to Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats, but as Wayne Campbell would say 'yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.'

There are clear reasons why the Republican-controlled Congress was not able to pass a long-term funding bill earlier this year and none of the factors or variables that prevented a long-term bill from passing have been dispelled.

The easiest, most logical way to pay for a long-term bill is to increase the federal gas tax by a few cents, but some Republicans have very different ideas about how to pay for it or not pay for it.