The Washington Post

Short-term highway funding bill scrapped

(David McNew/Getty Images)

This item has been updated.

House Republicans dropped plans Monday to vote on a three-month extension of federal highway funding, citing insufficient support for the measure.

All federally-funded roadwork is slated to grind to a halt on March 31. If Congress fails to act before then, the federal government can not collect $93 million per day in gas taxes, millions of construction jobs could be put at risk and eligible commuters would have to wait longer for a planned boost in employer-paid public transportation subsidies.

House Republican leaders planned to hold a vote on the short-term measure Monday evening under a rule that would have required a two-thirds majority vote. But aides said GOP leaders dropped those plans amid sustained opposition from Democrats, who want to vote instead on the two-year $109 billion transportation bill approved by the Senate two weeks ago.

“We are in the midst of bipartisan conversations about a short-term extension of the highway bill,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). “To facilitate those conversations, the House vote on an extension will occur later this week rather than tonight.”

Democrats blasted Boehner for once again failing to earn enough votes for a transportation funding measure and used plenty of transportation-themed cliches in the process.

“The Republicans’ belligerent and stubborn ‘my way or the highway’ strategy has once again backfired, but this time the stakes could not be higher for the millions of construction workers whose jobs hang in the balance of this bill as we quickly approach highway programs expiring on Saturday,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (W. Va.), ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, adding later that ”Republican Leaders chose yet again to kick their partisan pothole plan down the road.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used similar language, faulting the GOP for trying to pass a temporary extension that “does nothing more than kick the can down the road.”

Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) Monday called the GOP’s short-term bill a disappointment, adding that a “short-term band-aid bill is no solution. Communities and contractors need certainty especially going into the summer construction season.”

Over the weekend President Obama used his Saturday radio address to press the House to pass the Senate’s bill. “This is common sense,” Obama said. “Right now, all across this country, we’ve got contractors and construction workers who have never been more eager to get back on the job.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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