Entries in Highway Bill (3)


House Approves Another Short-Term Highway Extension

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon to overwhelmingly approve another 90-day extension of the highway bill, enabling the divided Congress to move forward on negotiations on a long-term agreement.

The bipartisan vote passed easily by a count of 293-127, with 69 Democrats joining the Republican majority in support of the measure, known formally as H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012. Just 14 Republicans opposed the bill.

The bill also included a provision authored by Nebraska Republican Lee Terry to strip approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline from the White House and compel the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or disapprove the permit within 30 days.

The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, although the leadership crafted the bill without the intent of it ever reaching the president’s desk. After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed the president’s warning.

“The House is on record again in support of the Keystone XL energy pipeline -- a project President Obama blocked, personally lobbied against, then tried to take credit for, and now says he’ll veto,” Boehner wrote in a statement following the bill’s passage. “There’s no telling where the president stands from one day to the next on Keystone, but he knows the pipeline has broad and bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. He knows it will create tens of thousands of new American jobs. And he knows that if he continues to stand in the way, the Canadian government will bypass the United States and ship their energy -- and the jobs that come with it -- to countries like China.”

It’s unclear how that rider will ultimately fare during conference negotiations, but Republicans added the provision to ensure it’d be a topic of negotiation at conference.

Over the past month, Democrats have pressured Republicans to vote on the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion bill, which was approved in a bipartisan vote in the upper chamber March 14 and did not include any language about the pipeline.

Instead, Republican sources say the House will use the latest 90-day extension as a legislative vehicle to move the negotiations to a bipartisan, bicameral conference.

Wednesday’s extension tacks on another 90 days to the end of the current authorization, which runs out June 30.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress Searches for Road Ahead on Highway Bill

Lester Lefkowitz/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional leaders say they are continuing to negotiate on a highway bill although no path forward has emerged yet, just days before funding is set to lapse Saturday.

House Speaker John Boehner, who pulled a short-term 90 day extension off the House floor Monday, told reporters that a bill would be on the House floor “soon” but he declined to provide specifics on what that bill might look like.

“We were talking to members on both sides of the aisle about how to proceed,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “When we have a decision, we'll let you know.”

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 ranked House Democrat, also said discussions are continuing but he prefers the Senate’s two-year extension, which won 22 Republican votes in the upper chamber and Hoyer predicted would pass the House if Boehner would allow for a vote.

“The speaker has said many times that the House ought [to] be allowed to work its will. We would hope that the Republicans would put on the floor the Senate bill and let it be voted up or down, and I think it would pass,” Hoyer, D-Md., said. “It has very substantial bipartisan agreement in the United States Senate. I don’t know why that shouldn’t be reflected over here.”

Senior leadership aides on both sides of the aisle say that Republican and Democratic negotiators from the House and Senate are working towards an agreement on the length of a short-term extension of current policy, not discussing the different approaches to specific policy elements of a long-term bill.

The Senate passed its two-year $109 billion transportation bill on March 14, with 74 votes in favor of the legislation. Republicans prefer a five-year, $260 billion bill, but have not been able to secure 217 votes required for passage through the House.

Republicans had scheduled a vote Monday on a 90-day extension of current policy, but it would have required a two-thirds majority to pass, a threshold the House GOP leadership realized was not possible given the strong Democratic opposition to a short-term extension.

Current funding runs out March 31.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Urges Congress to Pass Transportation Bill

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to quickly pass legislation to continue funding transportation and infrastructure, saying it would be “inexcusable” for lawmakers to put more American jobs at risk.

“At a time when a lot of people in Washington are talking about creating jobs, it’s time to stop the political gamesmanship that can actually cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. This should not be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” Obama said in the Rose Garden.

The president called on lawmakers to pass “clean extensions” of the Surface Transportation Bill, also referred to as the “highway bill,” and the Federal Aviation Administration Re-authorization, claiming both measures are necessary to protect the economy and the American workforce.

According to the White House, there are a million jobs riding on the highway bill and over 4,000 workers will be furloughed immediately if it is allowed to expire.

“That’s just not acceptable,” Obama said. “It’s inexcusable to put more jobs at risk in an industry that’s already been one of the hardest hit over the last decade. It’s inexcusable to cut off necessary investments at a time when so many of our highways are choked with congestion, when so many of our bridges are in need of repair, when so many commuters depend on reliable public transit and when travel and shipping delays cost businesses billions of dollars every single year.”

Obama was joined at the event by AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka on one side and Chamber of Commerce COO David Chavern on the other. He described them as “two organizations that don’t always see eye to eye,” and said their support proved that Congress needs to pass the bills.

The president’s speech was an offensive move by the White House to get ahead of lawmakers as Republicans in the House of Representatives and Democrats in the U.S. Senate have disagreements about the two bills. The transportation bill is set to expire at the end of September, but the House and Senate remain far apart on the legislation, which provides funding for highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems and revenue in the form of the federal gas tax. The House has proposed a 6-year, $235-billion bill, while the Senate wants a two-year, $109-billion measure.

Because the differences between the two chambers are so great, Congress will likely need to pass a short-term extension to avoid a shutdown at the end of next month. Democrats fear Republicans will try to attach extraneous riders, which is why the president called for a “clean extension.”

The president also called for Congress to pass a long-term extension of funding for the FAA. Earlier this summer, close to 4,000 federal employees were furloughed and tens of thousands of construction workers found themselves out a job when Congress broke for its summer recess before passing the routine extension. A short-term extension was ultimately passed, but it is set to expire Sept. 16.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio