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Bipartisan Patch Job for Highway Bill Coming Together

The bipartisan deal nixed Wyden's proposal that would increase taxes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A big fight over how to best avert a crisis in highway construction projects won't happen before the July Fourth recess, and there might be a deal to avoid the fight altogether.  

Senate Finance leaders decided to pause a markup of a package to avert a shortfall in federal highway funding amid optimism there will be a deal before a deadline later in July.  

The leadership of the committee rolled out a $7.6 billion bipartisan package that nixes a piece of an earlier proposal from Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would increase taxes on heavy vehicles and makes other tweaks suggested by Republicans, with further changes possible as negotiators work to craft a final agreement with both sides of the Rotunda.  

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance panel, praised the news that the Senate would engage directly with House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to seek language amenable to both chambers.  

"We have to get it right when it comes to funding the highway trust fund, and that means working in a bipartisan and bicameral manner to create a bill that is acceptable to both sides in both chambers," Hatch said in a statement. "This means real cuts to wasteful and low-priority spending must be included. Being that our ultimate goal is to produce a bill that the President will sign, we must work with House leaders going forward. I am pleased Chairman Camp has agreed to work with us on this endeavor, and I am confident we can find a path forward. This is an urgent matter that must be addressed as soon as possible. I am looking forward to working with Chairman Wyden and Chairman Camp to find a responsible solution that can become law."  

The move could avoid what threatened to become a political food-fight over the highway bill months before Election Day.  

Joanna Anderson contributed to this report.