Democrats and Republicans went back and forth on the House floor on March 29, but a long-term funding solution still remains stuck in the mud following the passage of a GOP-endorsed 90-day extension of SAFETEA-LU. The measure now moves on to the Senate, which is expected to approve it on Friday night to avoid a government shutdown of the highway program. The current funding extension expires on March 31.
“House Republicans voted to ensure hundreds of thousands of Americans will not lose their jobs and that transportation projects across the nation will not come to a grinding halt,” said House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-Fla.).
House Democrats, however, hammered Mica throughout the morning deliberations and said if the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion bill (MAP-21) was not considered and the 90-day extension was approved, as much as 50% of the highway and bridge jobs set to run this upcoming construction season would be scrapped.
“A 90-day extension is not good for Americans,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “Give us that vote [on the Senate bill]. What are you afraid of? You are afraid it will pass.”
Several Democrats stood up and called for consideration of MAP-21 while Mica continued to pass on floor time, causing Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) to question Republican support of the 90-day extension.
Mica, however, did have a closing argument, and reminded the Democrats that when they had control of Congress SAFETEA-LU was extended six times.
“We need to call in the Capitol physician, because the other side has a massive case of memory loss,” Mica quipped.
House Republicans still hold out hope for a five-year, $260 billion transportation bill that failed to get off the ground a few weeks ago, and believe the three-month timeframe would help get the measure in order.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) questioned the Republican’s motivation on the extension.
“The American people have the right to know why Republicans in the House are the odd man out in support of [MAP-21],” she said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Committee on Environment and Public Works, said in a statement she plans on attaching the Senate bill to the 90-day extension and send it back to the House. However, with the clock ticking on the highway program most believe the maneuver will not get the needed support.