Report: Finance Committee Has Closed the $12 Billion Gap In Senate Bill

Update 8/4: Exactly how “found” this money is seems to depend on who you ask. A Finance Committee staffer informed us yesterday that they were “working on offset options and determining which can get the support needed to move forward” — a far cry from the certainty expressed by two sources below. The issue may simply be that while committee leadership has identified a source for the funds, it hasn’t gotten full agreement yet. 

Adam Snider of BNA’s Transportation Watch publication is reporting that the Senate Finance Committee has figured out where the additional $12 billion needed for the Senate transportation bill will come from, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is clearing the way for the bill to be considered after the August recess.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus has reportedly found the $12 billion needed to make the EPW reauthorization proposal possible. Photo:Ghanbari/AP

Both the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the transportation reauthorization have been waiting for the debt ceiling talks to wrap up in order to release their bills. At this point, we won’t have a bill from either chamber until after Labor Day. (They adjourn at the end of this week for the month.)

The Senate EPW Committee wasn’t just waiting for the end of the debt negotiations to open up floor time, however — it was also waiting for the Finance Committee to come up with the $12 billion needed to close the gap between what the Senate bill spends and what’s in the Highway Trust Fund. And now, the day after the debt deal has saved the country from imminent default, Finance has, reportedly, come up with the goods.

Snider reports:

A two-year, $109 billion surface transportation reauthorization measure could move to the Senate floor in September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Aug. 2.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up the legislation, which has not been released, after lawmakers return in early September from a month-long recess, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters Aug. 2.

One of the main stumbling blocks to that measure—the $12 billion in additional revenue needed to support it—appears to have been overcome by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Reid said.

“He’s found a source of money to complete the highway bill,” Reid told reporters Aug. 2 after being asked to spell out the Democrats’ job-creation legislative agenda.

A Baucus aide confirmed that the chairman has finalized a plan for how to raise the $12 billion, but said that details would not be released, according to a lobbyist who spoke to the aide Aug. 2. Additionally, it is unclear if Republicans will support the proposal.

We have a call in to the Finance Committee for more information; we’ll let you know when we get more details. For now, though, these are big steps forward for the Senate bill. Both the Finance Committee solution and Reid’s support for quick action are good news.

Of course, the Senate will need to tangle with the House to get a final bill passed. For now, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica is sticking to his guns on a six-year bill with lower funding levels.

Note: I’d link to Adam Snider’s story in BNA, but it’s behind a very high paywall. But props to him for breaking this story.