WASHINGTON — House Republicans are weighing a three-month highway funding extension that could offer Congress a way out of an impasse days ahead of a crucial deadline.
The three-month bill was filed late Monday by leading House Republicans after the House and Senate clashed on dueling versions of must-pass transportation legislation. House leadership was hoping to set up a vote on Wednesday and then allow members to leave town a day early for the five-week August recess, congressional aides said Tuesday.
Congress is fast approaching a July 31 deadline for a cut-off of highway aid to the states. At the same time, lawmakers are rushing to finish up their work and head out on their annual August recess.
The House's original version of the highway bill was five months; the Senate's is six years, though only three of those are paid for. The Senate bill is headed for passage in the next several days, but House leaders have already declared it dead on arrival.
The three-month bill could be acceptable as an alternative, offering a chance to regroup when lawmakers return in the fall. House Republicans were set to debate it behind closed doors Tuesday morning.
The legislation also includes various provisions related to the Veterans Affairs Department, which Congress has been investigating amid claims of mismanagement. It does not include language reviving the federal Export-Import Bank, which the Senate voted 64-29 to add to its version of the highway bill late Monday over angry opposition from conservatives.
The bank, a federal agency that underwrites loans to help foreign customers buy U.S. goods, expired June 30 amid conservative opposition.
Supporters in the business community say the bank is necessary for U.S. competitiveness, but conservatives say it amounts to corporate welfare.
Authority for federal highway aid payments to states will expire Friday at midnight without action. At the same time, if Congress doesn't act before then the balance in the federal Highway Trust Fund is forecast to drop below a minimum cushion of $4 billion that's necessary to keep aid flowing smoothly to states.