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U.S. House won’t take up Senate transportation bill -McCarthy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal funding for road and mass transit projects hit a legislative pileup on Monday as the number two House Republican rejected a multi-year transportation bill working its way through the Senate this week.

The pronouncement by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushes Congress closer to a July 31 cut-off of federal highway construction money with no clear plan to restore it.

It also means that the idled U.S. Export-Import Bank has a much smaller chance of being renewed this week as a part of the transportation bill. The trade bank’s next chance to resume lending and guarantee operations would not likely come until September.

“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” McCarthy told reporters, adding that the House intends to start a five-week summer recess on Thursday after passing its own five-month extension of transportation funding earlier this month.

McCarthy said the “best option” to ensure that projects stay funded is for the Senate to take up the House-passed extension, which did not include a renewal of the Ex-Im Bank’s charter.

McCarthy said there was simply not enough time before the recess to consider the complex Senate bill, which authorizes $350 billion in spending over six years, but contains actual funding for only about three years’ worth of projects.

“I’m not sure they’ll be done with it,” he said of the Senate’s proposal. “And how would you expect us to take up 1,000 pages and why would you expect us to do some six-year bill that only paid for three years.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, said he would press ahead with the Senate’s multi-year bill transportation bill this week.

“Time is running out to get this bill through Congress,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. “We’re up against a deadline at the end of the week. Jobs are on the line.”

The Senate on Sunday took its first step towards attaching a renewal of the Ex-Im Bank charter to the transport legislation in a procedural vote.

Conservative Republicans in Congress last month blocked efforts to renew the bank’s charter before it expired on June 30.

Ex-Im’s critics say the bank provides “corporate welfare” to a few giant, politically connected corporations. The bank’s backers say a full shutdown would cause widespread losses of export contracts and cost thousands of American manufacturing jobs due to lack of private-sector export financing.

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