Senate Poised to take up House Plan to Patch Highway Trust Fund

Sometime this week the Senate is expected to take up and vote on the House’s bill to postpone the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund until May of 2015 via an array of accounting maneuvers to cover ten months of transportation funding.

Last week, the House passed Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s bill transferring $10.9 billion to the trust fund from various sources, with a large portion coming from an accounting method called “pension smoothing.” This allows employers to defer payments to their employee pension plans; resulting in higher revenues for companies and therefore increasing overall federal tax revenue. It’s a controversial idea, lambasted by conservative political groups and the New York Times alike in advance of last week’s vote.

The Senate will likely be taking up the House’s version of the bill this week and voting on it, though several amendments could also be considered. Senator Wyden is expected to offer the alternative version approved by a bipartisan vote of the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month as an amendment. This would replace the revenue sources in the House-passed bill with changes to the tax code that would raise the same amount of revenue in less controversial ways.

Another amendment likely to be introduced by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Carper (D-DE), Corker (R-TN) would reduce the amount generated by some of the accounting maneuvers, forcing Congress to act on a long-term funding solution before the end of the year.