It was the kind of off-hand response a fellow might make after he felt like he’d done enough talking to reporters and was ready to get on with the rest of his day.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had reached the one-last-question moment in his daily briefing with reporters Thursday after fielding queries on all sorts of topics, and he obviously wasn’t prepared for the closer to be about transportation.
Are you getting an extension bill ready for when transportation funding runs out on June 30?
His response was, more or less, I don’t know, but if it comes to that it won’t be a 30-day extension.
“We’re going to go with a six-month extension,” he said.
When that word reached to other side of the Capitol, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) exploded.
She has been the architect of a Senate-led effort to get the transportation bill out of conference committee and to save transportation funding from the disaster of another extension that would allow the Highway Trust Fund to run virtually dry.
All week she has tried to keep the lid on what’s being discussed behind closed doors to avoid a lot of counterproductive political posturing that could ensue. The chatter has continued, nonetheless, fueled largely by Politico’s Morning Transportation newsletter, which is widely read on the Hill and whose authors are adept at catching the slightest muttering of lawmakers about the bill.
Now, Boehner himself was doing the muttering.
With the Senate eagerly awaiting a House response to the latest proposal, Boxer clearly felt that the speaker wasn’t helping matters.
“I am very disappointed that Speaker Boehner is even talking about a long-term transportation extension, which would lead to the Highway Trust Fund going bankrupt,” she said. “Three million jobs and thousands of businesses are at stake.”