The bill would pay for highway programs through a combination of fuel taxes, cuts to other federal programs and tax changes, but also would drain the trust fund. Some senators have been critical of the provisions that are supposed to pay for transportation programs since they would raise about $10 billion over 10 years, but spend it in the first two years.
The highway bill "is so popular that members on both sides of the aisle are willing to kick the can down the road," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. "I think the American people understand that passing a bill that spends money over two years and tries to recoup it over a 10-year period is a highway to insolvency."
Lawmakers are under pressure to act quickly. The government's authority to raise money through fuel taxes and spend money from the trust fund expires March 31. The fuel taxes raise about $110 million a day for the government.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made a five-year transportation bill the election-year centerpiece of the GOP's jobs agenda last fall when he unveiled its broad outlines. Unable to corral enough votes for passage of the GOP measure, Boehner said last week that he plans to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote. But that could change when the House returns from a weeklong recess next week if GOP leaders are able to snare enough votes for their own measure.
Follow Joan Lowy at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.