For Immediate Release
July 31, 2014
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Aaron Fobes/Julia Lawless (202) 224-4515

Hatch on Highway Trust Fund

In Speech on Senate Floor, Utah Senator Says, “As far as I can see, the only viable solution before the Senate today is to take up the House bill and pass it as-is. Once again, we’ve all known that this was the most likely outcome for some time now. It’s time we accept it and move on.”

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) highlighted the similarities between the House-passed Highway Bill and the Senate Finance Committee proposal. 

“As I’ve said a number of times, if you compare the House’s bill with the one reported by the Senate Finance Committee – which, once again, received broad, bipartisan support when it was voted on in the Senate earlier this week – you’ll see that the bills are not all that far apart in terms of policy.  The core funding mechanisms are the same. The principal difference is that the Senate bill raises some revenue through some tax compliance provisions that are not in the House bill.  And, the House bill goes a little further on pension smoothing than the Finance Committee bill does.  These are not fundamental differences, Mr. President.  Any Senator that supported the Finance Committee’s bill should be able to support the House bill, which is a good thing because, like I said, we don’t have many other options if we want to get this done before the recess,” Hatch said. 

Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today: 

Mr. President, earlier today – just a little while ago, in fact – the House of Representatives once again passed legislation extending funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund.  This is the latest step in a process for which the final outcome has been known for some time.  

The bill the House passed today is virtually identical to the one they passed last week.  It’s basically the very same bill. 

Earlier this week, the Senate passed its own version of the highway bill and sent it back to the House.  Of course, we did so knowing full well that the House would not accept the Senate bill.            

I don’t think there was ever any real doubt in this chamber as to what was going to happen.            

But, in my view, it’s good that the Senate acted.            

I was particularly pleased to see that the version of the highway bill reported by the Senate Finance Committee received such strong, bipartisan support when it came up for a vote.  

Senator Wyden and I worked hard on that bill.  The effort was bipartisan from the outset and, in the end, we produced a product that both parties could support.  

Of course, I was a little less pleased that the Senate, on the very next vote, opted to strike the Finance Committee’s language and replace it with what is, in my view, a less viable vehicle for funding the Highway Trust Fund.  But, in the end, that’s the direction a majority of Senators decided to go.  

Like I said, it’s good that the Senate acted.  But, now, the House has acted again.  And, though there are likely a number of Senators who do not like the House bill, there doesn’t appear to be enough time for the Senate to try, once again, to go a different direction.  

As we all know, we are on the verge of a crisis with regard to funding for the Highway Trust Fund.  Congress needs to act immediately to prevent a shortfall in the Trust Fund and to ensure that states can continue to plan and implement their highway projects. 

Thousands of jobs are at stake here.  And, if Congress doesn’t pass a bill and get it to the President before we leave for recess, we’ll be doing a great disservice to a lot of people. 

We all know this, Mr. President.  

It’s not a secret. 

It’s not a surprise.  

As far as I can see, the only viable solution before the Senate today is to take up the House bill and pass it as-is.  Once again, we’ve all known that this was the most likely outcome for some time now.  It’s time we accept it and move on. 

That’s not to say that I’m disappointed that we have to pass the House’s bill.  

As I’ve said a number of times, if you compare the House’s bill with the one reported by the Senate Finance Committee – which, once again, received broad, bipartisan support when it was voted on in the Senate earlier this week – you’ll see that the bills are not all that far apart in terms of policy.  

The core funding mechanisms are the same. 

The principal difference is that the Senate bill raises some revenue through some tax compliance provisions that are not in the House bill.  And, the House bill goes a little further on pension smoothing than the Finance Committee bill does.  

These are not fundamental differences, Mr. President.  

Any Senator that supported the Finance Committee’s bill should be able to support the House bill, which is a good thing because, like I said, we don’t have many other options if we want to get this done before the recess.  

I plan to support the House-passed highway bill.  I urge all of my colleagues here in the Senate to do the same. 

Finally, Mr. President, I want to take a moment to address a major setback we’ve encountered with regard to the temporary highway extension that passed in the Senate earlier this week. 

As we learned yesterday, the Senate-passed bill has a shortfall of about $2.4 billion due to a drafting error.  

Some have suggested that this error originated in the Finance Committee’s version of the legislation.  However, anyone who takes the time to compare our language with that of the subsequently passed substitute amendment will find that this is not the case.  

Now, I’m not here to point fingers or to try to embarrass anyone.  But, I will say that these are the types of mistakes that happen when tax policy is written outside of the tax-writing committee.  

The Finance Committee has an open and transparent process that allows for all of our numbers to be scrutinized well in advance.  The committee has all the necessary expertise at its disposal to prevent these types of mishaps.  

I’m well aware that mistakes happen.  I’d just like to suggest that fewer of these types of mistakes will happen in the future if the Finance Committee is allowed to do its work when it comes to writing tax policy. 

That’s all I have to say on that matter.           

Once again, Mr. President, we’re at a critical juncture here.  We need to get a temporary highway bill over the finish line.  As far as I can see, the only way to do that is for us to take up and pass the House’s bill. 

As I stated earlier, this shouldn’t be a difficult lift.  I think we can get this done in short order. 

I yield the floor.

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