Senate Passes Stop-Gap Funding Bill For Federal Transportation Workers

Amid the negotiations on Capitol Hill about Joe Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” spending plan and raising the federal debt ceiling, the Senate on Saturday passed a “stop-gap” transportation bill that keeps around 4,000 federal employees working.

Biden is expected to sign the bill into law, according to reporting from the New York Times. It passed the House on a 365-51 vote on Friday after a deadline in the budget bill for funding transportation caused some highway workers to go on leave.

Renewed funding for the workers as part of other transportation projects had been delayed because it was tied into the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill previously passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate with all Democratic senators and 19 Republican senators’ support. 

The bipartisan infrastructure bill was set for a floor vote in the House last week. Still, that process was delayed over insistence by the House Progressive Caucus that it be packaged together in the House with the Biden administration’s massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation spending bill. 

The larger bill includes expanding Medicaid and Medicare coverage, universal pre-K childcare, many parts of the “Green New Deal,” climate change initiatives, and free tuition for community college.

Meanwhile, moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said that they will not support the budget reconciliation bill as presently structured. The Senate will need all 50 Democratic votes to move the reconciliation bill forward as it stands, effectively killing the bill before it gets to the House.

Republicans have said that they will withdraw support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill if House progressives wish to bind it together with the reconciliation bill.

Now at the risk of losing passage of either bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pulled back the vote on the infrastructure bill scheduled for last week. She is now promising that both bills will get approval in the House before the end of the month.

Sinema issued a statement over the weekend criticizing Pelosi for delaying a House floor vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as a standalone measure. She said that Arizonans and all Americans expect “their lawmakers to consider legislation on its merits” and not to obstruct “critical infrastructure investments.”

As the drama on the two spending bills plays out, the stop-gap transportation bill will send the furloughed federal workers affected back to work.