House Republicans have two days to approve an extension to national transportation funding before hundreds of thousands of construction-related jobs are threatened.
Republicans postponed an extension vote Wednesday, suggesting House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, continues to struggle to get his party members in line and convince Democrats there is an alternative to adoption of the Senate’s bipartisan two-year $109 billion transportation bill.
Transportation analysts expect some type of extension to be approved by the deadline, but the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration last summer shows congressional brinkmanship can hit new lows. Republicans failed to push a 60-day extension on Tuesday and a 90-day extension Monday, as debate disintegrated into both sides of the aisle, with each blaming the other for past transportation plan failures.
Democrats says a shutdown would threaten 1.8 million jobs, and more than $100 million in fuel tax revenue would be lost every day national highway programs are shuttered. A shutdown of national highway programs would also stymy state transportation agencies’ ability to commit to long-term projects.
Debate over the surface transportation bill “has turned into a political gotcha game,” said John Mica, R-Fla., Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman. Mica and Boehner have struggled to gain enough support for their five-year, $260 billion plan.
Democrats have balked at the Republican push to help fill a funding shortfall by expanding domestic energy production, while more conservative Republicans say the bill’s price tag is too high. House Republicans couldn’t gain needed support for an 18-month plan floated in early March, either.
“We all want a longer bill. This is the bill we can pass … Everything else is just a conversation," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who urged Republicans to adopt the Senate plan.