A three-month extension of current federal highway spending programs cleared the House of Representatives Sept. 23, after the effort was delayed for hours over a protest against the possibility of future hikes in motor vehicle fuel taxes.
House Republican leaders had allied themselves with President Obama in urging instead that lawmakers extend such programs by 18 months. A short extension, some GOP members said, would make it easier for Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., to push through his proposed six-year, $500 billion spending plan that includes the first gas tax increase since 1993.
But several GOP lawmakers defended the short extension, and said if the House did not act before the programs expire on Sept. 30, it would stop $4.5 billion in immediate spending and threaten numerous construction jobs.
About half the Republicans voted for the extension, along with all the Democrats who voted.
The three-month extension now awaits action in the Senate, which until this week appeared to join the administration in wanting to put off a major new transportation bill until March 2011. A bill to that effect had already cleared two committees there, but this week there was new interest among senators in a short extension.
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