House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday: The House is not taking up the Senate highway bill before the August recess.
While the Senate rushes to passage on its more than 1,000-page, six-year highway bill, McCarthy was emphatic that the House would not consider the legislation before hitting the exits on Thursday for a five-week break. "We're not taking up the Senate bill," McCarthy said.
He asked how anyone could expect them to take up the Senate highway bill in such a short amount of time. "We're set to depart on Thursday," he said.
McCarthy instead urged the Senate to take up the House's five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund. That bill, which passed the House weeks ago, did not include a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which the Senate is expected to attach to the highway legislation. McCarthy didn't seem to care that jamming the Senate would mean no extension for Ex-Im.
The California Republican said the only commitment that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, had made on the export-credit agency is that, if a reauthorization came over from the Senate, the House would consider it under an open amendment process.
Ex-Im proponents — including almost all House and Senate Democrats and even some congressional Republicans — had figured that the Senate's highway bill was the best avenue for extending the Export-Import Bank. Now it appears that an Ex-Im reauthorization might have to wait.
McCarthy was less definitive on whether the House could pass a shorter-term extension for the highway bill, though he strongly endorsed the House bill extending the Highway Trust Fund until Dec. 18. McCarthy mentioned that a two- or three-month extension would cost roughly the same as the five-month, and he repeatedly urged the Senate to pass that bill. "I think that's the best option before us today," he said, calling it the "easiest, best way to move forward."
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