Senators from both parties are slamming the House's latest plan to pass a three-month highway extension tomorrow, and then leave for the August break and force the Senate to either pass the House bill or watch federal highway money dry up.
Current highway funding expires Friday, and the House plan shows GOP leaders are essentially ditching a six-year highway funding bill that the Senate still hopes to pass this week.
Democrats complained that House Republicans were simply throwing in the towel and starting their five-week August recess early in order to avoid a debate with the Senate.
"It's still July," Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted on the Senate floor. "For the past ten years, the recess has started in August. The House of Representatives want to start it in July. Apparently they need a rest."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, accused the House of leaving town early, "so they can escape having to take up our bill."
Democrats weren't the only ones chastising the House plan to "bail out" on the Senate, as one lawmaker described it in a floor speech.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., condemned the House plan to adjourn without considering the Senate bill, noting the need for long-term planning for major repairs, such as crumbling bridges, that the Senate legislation would facilitate.
Inhofe called on the Senate to shorten the debate time so that the Senate could finish it ahead of the departure of House lawmakers. "We can still do it while the House is still here," Inhofe said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made no mention of the House proposal in his floor remarks, sending a signal that he is ignoring the House proposal, at least for now. McConnell has said the Senate is getting closer and closer to passing a bipartisan bill in the upper chamber, a goal he hopes to reach by Wednesday.
The Senate bill would fund three years of a six-year authorizing bill for road and bridge projects without increasing taxes. Instead, the bill would be funded with enhanced tax enforcement and by other means, including the sale of emergency U.S. oil reserves.
But House lawmakers want a short-term bill for now, which would buy them time to devise a multi-year plan paid for with revenue that would come from reforming international tax law. Senate GOP leaders don't like the House plan.
In the House, both Republicans and Democrats seemed to agree that there is not enough time to consider the Senate bill before the August recess. The Senate plan is more than 1,000 pages long, and was only made public recently.
"In the short time we have available, it would not be possible to consider that bill," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday, adding that he would "probably" vote against the Senate measure.
Hoyer is at odds with Senate Democrats, who pleaded with the House Tuesday to stick around and consider the Senate bill.
"If the House would stay for an extra few days to take up our bill, we can get this done for the American people," Boxer said.