Lawmakers to Finish Highway Funding, Turn to Extenders

By The National Law Review.

With highway funding authorization set to expire on Friday, November 20, House and Senate lawmakers this week will be tasked with conferencing their versions of highway funding legislation. In addition to differences in the transportation provisions, there still remains a key difference between the House and Senate on one major offset: a reduction to the Federal Reserve dividend rate. In lieu of this provision, which was included in the Senate bill, House lawmakers have proposed a drawdown of the Federal Reserve’s capital surplus account. It is presently uncertain which approach will prevail, though lawmakers do not have much time to iron out a compromise.

Notably, rumors continue to circulate in Washington over the possibility of moving forward with international tax reform, which at one time had been discussed as a mechanism for funding the Highway Trust Fund. At this point, however, it would be nearly impossible for such reform to be linked with highway funding. Nevertheless, last week – in addition to continued pressure from Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) hinted that he would like to see action on international tax reform before year’s end, possibly tied with work on tax extenders. At the same time, Chairman Hatch expressed skepticism that such an ambitious goal is achievable, noting that “[i]t’s going to be tough, during these remaining days for these large ideas.”  These remarks echo those of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) remarks on this issue, which have essentially ruled out the possibility of international tax reform before 2016.