House Passes Highway Bill in First "Victory" for Speaker Ryan

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Nov 05, 2015 12:15 PM
House Passes Highway Bill in First "Victory" for Speaker Ryan

In what is being hailed as the first victory for new House Speaker Paul Ryan, the lower chamber has just passed a highway funding bill - the first in over a decade.

The House voted to approve the bill in a 363-64 vote. It calls for spending $261 billion on highways and $55 billion on transit over six years. The legislation authorizes highway funding for six years, but only if Congress can come up with a way to pay for the final three years.

Like most pieces of legislation, the transportation bill did not pass without controversy. Conservatives have long balked over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and Democrats criticized their colleagues for not allowing a vote on increasing the federal gas tax.

"The biggest and most glaring omission by the Rules Committee is not allowing any attempt by this House to fund the bill. I mean that's pretty extraordinary," Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who is the top ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said during debate on the highway bill on Wednesday.

Yet, an open process is something Ryan has pledged to offer under his leadership, emphasizing it again Thursday morning at his first solo Capitol Hill briefing.

The highway funding legislation must now be debated in the Senate alongside a similar transportation bill. Both chambers have to come to an agreement by Nov. 20, when the Highway Trust Fund policy expires.