The House on Tuesday unanimously approved extending highway and aviation spending, boosting hopes Congress will avert the political brinksmanship that nearly shut down the government this summer.
The $25.6 billion bill includes none of the policy issues that sharply divided Republicans and Democrats, causing the Federal Aviation Administration to partially shutdown last month. The measure will extend surface transportation programs until March 31, 2012, with authority to spend nearly $23 billion from the Highway Trust Fund. The FAA portion will extend the agency’s authority to Jan. 31.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the surface transportation extension is the eighth since the last six-year spending bill expired two years ago. The extension until March will “will give both sides enough time to work out acceptable language,” Mica said.
Mica, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that the FAA bill was being extended for the 22nd time, but he guaranteed it would be the last extension.
“This situation demonstrates the need for a long-term authorization by the United States Congress,” he said.
A “clean” extension showed the public that “Congress can put planes and passengers ahead of politics,” said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials praised the House committee for approving the extension.
“Once Congress passes these extensions, they can move toward the job-creating investments in our transportation infrastructure,” said Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber’s executive director of transportation and infrastructure.
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