The proposed two-year $339 billion surface transportation bill received the unanimous support of witnesses of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday.
Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said funding the Highway Trust Fund for the next 10 years was the only specific recommendation made by the Senate Gang of Six, the bipartisan group searching for a solution to the U.S. debt crisis.
Endorsements were also received by committee witnessses Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, transportation officials from two states, and representatives of organized labor and the construction industry.
“I think it does show that among Democrats and Republicans, this is a strong priority,” Boxer said. The Gang of Six proposal doesn’t “mention any other specific fund.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he endorsed the bill because it has the support of senators Max Baucus, D-Mont., and David Vitter, R-La., chairman and ranking member of the EPW highway subcommittee.
Although he described himself as one of the Senate's most conservative members, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said he always backed strong spending for defense and transportation.
Baucus also is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and it falls to him to find $12 billion in revenue to assure the stability of the highway fund after two years. He said he was confident that he will get support for the funding, but senators won’t commit until the debt issue is resolved.
“I want to say publicly that I am working very hard in the Finance Committee to find that money,” Baucus said. “I feel fairly that we will, on a bipartisan basis, find that $12 billion.”
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