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Opponents of Highway Trust Fund Patch Look to Next Fight (Updated)

Welch is collecting signatures of lawmakers who've had enough of stop-gap highway spending bills. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:29 p.m. |  Plenty of House Democrats — and even a few moderate Republicans — fed up with Congress' inability to reach agreement on a multi-year Highway Trust Fund deal are likely to vote "no" Tuesday on a bill that would extend spending authority through July 31  

The ringleaders of an effort to derail the latest stop-gap bill, however, have changed their strategy. Democrats Peter Welch of Vermont and John Carney of Delaware, along with Republicans James B. Renacci of Ohio and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin had planned to submit a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi prior to Tuesday's vote pledging to vote against anything other than a long-term bill. Along with that letter, they intended to release the names of all the co-signers, a number Welch said had grown to nearly three dozen by Monday afternoon.  

But the four lawmakers, looking to build a bigger bloc of opposition for what will likely be yet another short-term extension at the end of July, have decided to hold off on sending the correspondence and use the time to collect more signatures.  

"Our decision to not publish the letter now is tactical," Welch told CQ Roll Call, "because just given the time constraints ... we're not voting on a funding source or a lack thereof, we're just allowing a continuation of the authorization that was funded last summer."  

Welch said he still planned on voting against the extension when it comes up Tuesday, but couldn't speak for the other co-signers of the letter.  

He stressed, however, that none of the 30-odd members who had signed, Democrat or Republican, had asked to have their names removed.  

"I've gotten no calls from people already on the letter because they were getting cold feet," Welch said.  

On Tuesday, Majority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., who a week earlier had been uncertain as to how Democrats would vote on a Highway Trust Fund extension, confirmed he and most of his members would support the stopgap measure coming to the floor on Tuesday.  

"We're gonna vote for this bill," he said at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing.  

But Hoyer, like Welch, warned Democrats aren't going to take the pressure off over the next two months.  

"We are going to be urging in the next 60 days be used to come up with a permanent funding source and reauthorization by july 31," he said.  

   

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