Long-Term Highway Bill Makes It Through The Lower Chamber

Juliegrace Brufke | Capitol Hill Reporter

After weeks of negotiations between the House and Senate, the lower chamber passed the reconciled version of the long-term highway bill in a 359-65 vote Thursday.

The $305 billion measure, unveiled Tuesday, allocates $205 billion to be used toward highway spending and $48 billion toward other transit projects.

It is the longest transportation measure negotiated in over a decade.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’s budget will be separated from its National Network program, which will receive $2.6 billion and $5.5 billion respectively.  

The bill calls for the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, which provides taxpayer-backed financing to foreign companies purchasing American goods, until September 2019.

Critics of the agency argue it promotes corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

Lawmakers opted not to raise the federal gas tax which currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon; instead opting to fill funding gaps with 19 billion taken from the Federal Reserve’s surplus funds and lowering the 6 percent divided payments large banks receive from the Fed to 1.5 percent.

Private tax collection services will also now be used to collect back payments on federal taxes under the legislation.

Another revenue-raising policy rider attached the to legislation is a provision allowing the government to revoke the passports of those owing more than $50,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

Congress passed a continuing resolution prior to Thanksgiving, extending funding until Dec. 4.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the measure will reduce the federal deficit by $71 billion over the 2016-2025 period.

The Senate is also expected to vote on the measure Thursday.

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