The United States Senate on Thursday approved a five year highway bill for infrastructure funding of roads, bridges and mass-transit systems. The bill also includes the revival of the charter of the United States Export-Import Bank.
The Senators had a bipartisan vote of 83 to 16 in order to approve $305 billion legislation, right after the House of Representatives approved the bill with a vote of 359 to 65.
The legislation called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known an FAST Act, is the first long term highway bill that has been approved in the last ten years and that has required a bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.
According to Reuters, the House Transportation Committee Chairman and a Pennsylvania Republican Bill Schuster said “It proves to the American people that we can get things done.”
The bill also includes the revival of the EXIM bank, which helps American companies against their foreign competitors. The legislation was passed overwhelmingly, but with a conservative opposition in Congress that initially had the charter of the bank expire on the 30th of June. The legislation provides the bank with a renewed charter that will go through the 30th of September 2019, but will have a lower spending limit, along with other reforms.
If the charter remained closed many beneficiaries would have to take jobs outside of the United States. According to Reuters, Boeing Co. the biggest EXIM Bank beneficiary, along with General Electric CO have stated that if they lose the agency’s support they would be forced to take manufacturing jobs out of the United States and Ethiopian Airlines said in September that they would not have the ability to have delivery on Boeing jets without the EXIM Bank’s support.
However, the bill was opposed by some Republicans who say that $280 billion for infrastructure projects taken from the Highway Trust Fund is irresponsible without raising federal gasoline taxes. Democrat legislators argued that the low spending increases are not enough for America’s crumbling roads, bridges and the rail system.
In order to avoid high taxes, the bill’s authors includes measures for transfer of the Federal Reserve surplus funds, customs fee increases and the usage of a private tax collection agencies by the Internal Revenue Service.
According to Reuters, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that these set of measures would leave the Highway Trust Fund with $10 billion at the end of 2020.
The bill will be signed by President Obama on Friday right before the current funding is expected to run out.