With federal transportation funding set to expire next week, House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica said Tuesday that talks are under way to extend funding at current levels for the ninth time.
Mica’s comments signaled that House Republicans are not prepared to take up a bipartisan transportation bill approved by the Senate last week.
After meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Tuesday morning, Mica (R-Fla.) said the length of the proposed extension was still up in the air.
He said he hoped the extension bill would be unencumbered by riders like the one on an FAA extension last summer that led to a partial shutdown of the agency.
“We’re going to try to do a clean extension, but that’s up to the leadership,” Mica said in conversation with reporters after a luncheon address. “This isn’t the FAA. You’re dealing with [transportation] projects across the country. You can’t just shut them down.”
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who was the floor manager for the Senate bill, reiterated her call Tuesday for the House to approve the Senate bill before the March 31 deadline.
“This is not the time to quibble. This is not the time to stall,” Boxer said. “This is not the time to reinvent the wheel. This is the time to act across party lines together.”
Though the House GOP bill that emerged from his committee stalled in the face of stubborn bipartisan opposition, Mica said the Senate bill did not provide a favorable alternative.
“The Senate bill is not going to pass the House,” Mica said. “No way.”
Once an extension is in place, Mica said he hoped to produce another version of the five-year plan that has faltered in the House.
“We’re resolving a lot of member issues,” he said. “We’re working with them to draft a measure that can pass.”
With the Highway Trust Fund that is the main source of transportation funding projected to run out of money, possibly before year’s end, Congress is under pressure to find new sources of funding both for the extension and for long-range funding.