(Washington, D.C) House Republicans will unveil a five-year transportation and highway bill Thursday that matches Senate Democrats in highway funding levels, according to a member of Congress familiar with the bill.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to roll out the bill Thursday morning and pitch it as a major jobs initiative, countering a charge from President Obama and other Democrats that the GOP won't support direct job creation.
Republicans are likely to draw attention to relatively high funding levels in their bill. It will go up against a Senate alternative funding the Highway Trust Fund at $54 billion over two years. The House version, at five years, will be "longer and at least as big" in terms of highway funding, the lawmaker said.
One thing Boehner likely won't reveal Thursday is how the unexpectedly generous bill will be paid for. And this is guaranteed to be a major sticking point with Democrats. Republicans are dead set against any tax increases, for gasoline or for anything else. While Boehner has pointed to royalties for expanded domestic oil drilling as one funding source, that's unlikely to be a major component. Such royalties yield only $800 million to $1 billion over 10 years, and the Highway Trust Fund is tens of billions short if construction projects stay at anywhere near their present pace.
About $8 billion comes from a spend-down on the $22 billion currently held in the fund. Beyond that, "Boehner won't reveal the final (funding) levels until he reveals the pay-fors," the lawmaker said.
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