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The Senate yesterday approved an amended version of the House's $10.9 billion funding bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, but only through Dec. 19.The House voted earlier this month to pass H.R. 5021, which would extend funding for the trust fund through May 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation officials estimate the fund could run out of money by next month.
But yesterday, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) argued that the fund should be extended only through Dec. 19 so that lawmakers would be pressured into considering a long-term surface transportation bill after the November elections, during what would be a lame-duck session of Congress.The senators' amendment shortened the expiration date by eliminating a so-called "pension smoothing" provision in the bill that Boxer and Corker described as a "dangerous" budgeting "gimmick" that could lead to pensions being underfunded."We've kicked this can down the road 11 times since 2009 – it's time we do the job we were sent to Washington to do," Carper said in a prepared statement. "We have a lot of work in front of us to strike the principled compromise that will be needed to pass the multi-year bill. However with a December deadline, Congress has more than enough time to consider the variety of solutions available to us."The bill now goes back to the House for consideration.
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