WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress is on track to shore up federal highway aid and veterans' health care before heading out of town this week for its August recess, leaving an array of sticky issues unresolved that are sure to complicate an autumn agenda already groaning under the weight of indecision.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, talks with committee members Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, prior to the committee's hearing on the impacts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on U.S. Interests and the Military Balance in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In one of their last decisions before adjourning for a month, the House is expected on Wednesday to vote on a bill that would extend spending authority for transportation programs through Oct. 29, and replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund with $8 billion. That's enough money to keep highway and transit aid flowing to states through mid-December.

The Senate plans to take up the House bill later in the week, but before a midnight Friday deadline when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states will expire.

Lawmakers said they were loath to take up yet another short-term transportation funding extension -- this will be the 34th extension since 2009. But Republicans and Democrats don't want to see transportation aid cut off, and they are eager to pass an amendment attached to the extension bill that fills a $3.4 billion hole in the Department of Veterans Affairs' budget. The money gap threatens to force the closure of hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The three-month patch puts off House action on a long-term transportation bill, adding one more messy fight to a fall agenda already crammed with difficult, must-pass legislation.

Twelve annual spending bills face a Sept. 30 deadline but are being held up by a clash over the Confederate flag. Congress must also decide whether to approve or disapprove President Barack Obama's Iran deal, and whether to pass a contentious defense policy bill that faces a veto threat from the White House. Another fight is certain over raising the nation's borrowing authority.

Spending authority for the Federal Aviation Administration also expires on Sept. 30. Since long-term bills to set aviation policy have yet to be introduced in either the House or the Senate, lawmakers acknowledge they will have to pass a short-term extension there as well.

A $350 billion, long-term Senate transportation bill cleared a procedural hurdle on Wednesday by a vote of 65 to 35. Senate passage is likely on Thursday. The bill would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but only provides enough funds for the first three years of the six years covered by the bill. The bill also renews the Export-Import Bank, which makes low-interest loans to help U.S. companies sell their products overseas. The bank's charter expired on June 30 in the face of opposition from conservatives, who call it corporate welfare.

Senate GOP leaders had hoped the House would pass the long-term bill and send it to the White House before the recess. But their Republican counterparts in the House have made it clear they won't be hurried into accepting the Senate measure. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the House wants an opportunity to express its priorities in such a significant piece of legislation.

Complicating passage of a long-term transportation bill is that President Barack Obama and House Republican leaders want to change corporate tax laws that encourage U.S. companies to park profits overseas. The government could then use the resulting revenue to fully pay for highway and transit aid. But there is no consensus on the details of the corporate tax changes, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly tried to dampen support for that approach.

"The fall certainly won't be for the faint-hearted," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "You just can't duck hard choices any longer."

It has been a decade since Congress last passed a long-term transportation bill even though lawmakers in both parties generally support highway and transit aid. The difficulty has been finding the money to pay for programs in a way that doesn't increase the federal deficit.

For decades, highway and transit programs were paid for with gas tax revenues and other transportation taxes and fees. But the federal 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, while the cost of construction has risen. The gas tax brings in about $35 billion a year for highway programs, but the government is spending about $50 billion. Obama and many lawmakers say even $50 billion is far too little.

Congress could raise the gas tax, but lawmakers fear a voter backlash.


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