President Obama is expected to sign into law a 90-day extension of highway programs after Congress approved the bill Thursday, averting the loss of thousands of construction-related jobs nationally.
The White House, which backs the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion plan, signaled it would approve the extension, but urged Congress to pass a long-term plan. The three-month extension will give House Republicans another shot at pushing their five-year, $260 billion plan.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., blasted House Republicans for forcing the Senate to approve an extension because the other chamber lacked a bill. The Senate approved its bipartisan plan earlier this month.
"They have ideas, they have speeches, they have platforms, but they don't have a bill. We couldn't negotiate with them even if we wanted to,” Landrieu said.
House Republicans responded that the Senate’s two-year plan is just another extension, too. The extension, passed unanimously in the Senate by a voice vote, is the ninth since the last surface transportation bill expired in 2009.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has struggled to get his more conservative members to accept the bill's price tag, while Democrats balk at expanding domestic energy production to fill a funding shortfall. It’s unclear how House Republicans will be able to assemble the needed support by the end of June, considering the partisan drumbeat will resound louder as the presidential election nears.
"The clock has been reset, and we are optimistic that the House and Senate will use the time available to settle on a new, long-term reauthorization,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Passing such a bill will remove the uncertainty that is already causing a number of state departments of transportation to delay billions of dollars worth of highway projects that would otherwise create hundreds of thousands of American jobs."