WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a five-month transportation funding extension on Wednesday aimed at avoiding an Aug. 1 road construction slowdown but that does nothing to revive the idled U.S. Export-Import Bank.
House Republicans passed the measure less than 48 hours after its introduction in a move that conservatives in the party said would give them an advantage over Ex-Im backers in the Senate, who aim to use their version of the bill as a vehicle to renew the trade bank’s charter, which expired on June 30.
Passed by a 312-119 bipartisan vote, the House bill would authorize federal spending on highway and rail transit projects through Dec. 18 and inject about $8.1 billion into the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund.
It would be paid for by extending higher airport security fees levied on airline tickets for two more years, to 2026, and with revenue from tax changes aimed at improving compliance and collections.
While Republicans and Democrats both said they would rather pass a six-year transportation bill, they have been unable to agree on where to find the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to fund it.
Many House Republicans are eyeing revenue captured from repatriating some $2 trillion in U.S. corporate profits held overseas, but say that must be part of a broader international corporate tax reform plan that needs more time to develop.
“We want to do a multi-year highway bill,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on the House floor. “We know we’re not going to write that bill in the next two weeks. We know we need at least two or three months.”
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was set to consider its own transportation funding plan later on Wednesday.
Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans aim to try to attach a renewal of the Ex-Im Bank’s charter to a Senate transportation bill, and conservative Republicans vowed on Wednesday to try to stop them.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner to block an Ex-Im amendment, which would show they are “more than campaign conservatives.”
“I am willing to use any and all procedural tools to stop this corporate welfare, this corruption, from being propagated,” Cruz told reporters.
But in a test vote last month, 65 senators voiced support for Ex-Im, enough to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate.
Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney