The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted Thursday to extend surface transportation programs through Jan. 31, 2012, a first step toward congressional passage before spending out of the Highway Trust Fund expires Sept. 30.
The vote was unanimous, prompting Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to say the committee “has shown it can work together so that we can put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation.”
President Obama last week called for quick passage of a “clean” extension of the highway programs, to head off a potential crisis if lawmakers tried to instead alter some policies and then missed the deadline. That would interrupt trust fund tax collections and disbursements to states, and could stall thousands of transportation projects across the nation.
Obama will offer a new jobs plan in his Thursday night speech to a joint session of Congress, including additional infrastructure investments.
Boxer and the committee’s ranking Republican, James Inhofe, Okla., have also proposed separate legislation to reauthorize highway programs at current spending levels for two years.
Inhofe sharply criticized Obama last week for his Rose Garden remarks suggesting Congress might let surface transportation programs lapse. Today, Inhofe said a simple extension is “a no-brainer,” but that it is also important to pass a two-year bill.