Democratic Senate leaders, along with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, urged House Republicans to adopt their two-year transport bill instead of endangering thousands of jobs by pushing for an extension.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and fellow Democrats said they hoped Republicans would abandon their pursuit of a three-month extension ahead of the March 31 deadline, but they held off on saying they would chance a DOT shutdown. The Senate’s bipartisan, $109 billion bill will give state departments the ability to plan for road projects, whereas the House’s proposed extension will “wreak havoc” on their plans, said Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ben Cardin (Md), and Mark Begich (Alaska) also voiced support for the Senate plan.
The House’s pursuit of an extension is the latest setback for a campaign struggling to satisfy more conservative fellow members who balked at the plan’s price tag and Democrats’ opposition of expanding domestic energy production. House Republicans floated the idea of an 18-month plan after its five-year, $260 billion bill failed to gain enough support, but the shorter plan met a similar reaction.
“The House is playing games and those games have to stop,” Boxer said.
She said the Senate bill would maintain 1.9 million jobs and create up to 1 million more. Labor, road construction and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, support the bill, Boxer said.
She also slammed the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R.-Wisc., saying the plan to cut $5.3 trillion in spending over the next decade would cut transportation spending by half. The AFL-CIO estimated Ryan’s budget would reduce transportation spending from $88.6 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $57.1 billion in 2013.
LaHood said House Republicans’ extension would be a “death knell” to using transportation spending to get people back to work. He previously called House Republicans’ five-year bill the worst infrastructure plan he’d ever seen.
“For one day, I am asking the House to set aside politics for the good of the people,” LaHood said.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., argues the Senate plan will deplete the Highway Trust Fund “in a matter of months and leaves infrastructure improvements and employment opportunities far behind.” The House favors a longer-term transportation plan that cuts federal bureaucracy and allows state departments to plan further out, wrote the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in an op-ed in The Hill.
In a statement pledging to introduce an extension proposal Thursday, Mica wrote that the House will continue to attempt to tie infrastructure spending to the expansion of domestic energy production.