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2009 Transportation Bill

House to Move Tomorrow on $5B Highway Trust Fund Patch

The House could take up a temporary rescue for the highway trust fund as soon as tomorrow, with $5 billion the most likely amount of funding, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

That number exceeds the $3 billion sought by House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who had hoped for a bare-bones patch to help him persuade the White House to support a new long-term bill.

But it is also on the low end of the U.S. DOT's estimate of the trust fund's shortfall between now and September 30 and represents a stark difference of opinion with the Senate, which has agreed on a $26.8 billion infusion to keep the trust fund flush until 2011.

The Democratic leadership aide said the highway trust fund money likely would come as part of a package that also includes must-pass aid for both the Federal Housing Administration and the fund that helps states pay unemployment benefits.

The bill would then move to the Senate's court, where it could be amended to add more money or passed without changes. If the Senate chooses the former, however, this summer's game of transportation-policy chicken could end with the House leaving town and the trust fund still short of cash.

Of the three options outlined yesterday, Streetsblog Capitol Hill's money is still on c).

Late Update: The headline of this post reflects remarks made this afternoon by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), confirming the initial report that a $5 billion trust fund package is slated for a vote tomorrow.

As Hoyer told reporters, the money will come up under "suspension of the rules," requiring a two-thirds majority for passage:

[W]e'll also have the suspension called the fiscal solvency package. As you know, the transportation trust fund needs to be beefed up between now and either October 1st or some date thereafter. There's been an agreement to put $5 billion in that package. And it will be a package of dealing with all these extension of unemployment insurance, and the Ginnie Mae, FHA additional loan authority...

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