House and Senate approve three-month extension for federal transportation funding
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Earlier today, the United States House of Representatives and Senate signed off on respective bills that aim to keep federal funding for surface transportation intact at current levels, through the end of June, according to various reports. The measures will be sent to President Obama to be signed onto law
This funding also goes toward road, bridge and mass transit projects and passed by a 266-158 margin in House and the Senate passed it by a voice vote.
This extension was expected following last week’s announcement by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) that the House intended to introduce an extension—which will be the ninth one since SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009.
Mica said this extension is needed as he and House Republicans “continue to work toward a responsible transportation bill that provides long-term certainty, reduces the size of government, eliminates earmarks, and is fully paid for. We continue to believe that linking energy and infrastructure is the responsible thing to do in order to meet our long-term needs.”
With just a few days to go before the current extension expires on March 31, the Senate, which recently approved MAP-21, a two-year, $109 bill surface transportation bill, votes on a short-term resolution or elects to move forward with MAP-21.
Earlier this year, the House introduced its own long-term bill, the five-year, $260 billion American Energy and Infrastructure Act, but it largely stalled out due to fiscal concerns from House Republicans.
An Associated Press report noted that today’s vote was the conclusion of an on-again, off-again struggle by House GOP leaders to pass their own five-year transportation plan. The House, reported the AP, was forced to abandon plans to bring the bill to the floor last month because of divisions in their own ranks.
And the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Boxer warned that the decision by House leaders to spurn her bipartisan bill and pass another three-month extension would create havoc in state planning for road, bridge and transit projects and empty the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by the federal gasoline tax and has not been increased in nearly 20 years and has battled to remain solvent as it is paying out more funding than it is bringing in, due to Americans driving less, among other reasons.
“If what the House did today becomes law, it means a 90-day stop gap extension of our transportation programs,” Boxer said in a statement. “It also means the continuation of thousands of job losses that have already begun due to the uncertainty created by the House approach. I call on House Members to cancel their vacations and come back to have a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, MAP-21. I am working with my colleagues to attach the Senate bill to the 90-day stop gap extension and send it back to the House. If we can do that today, we can save the House from itself. If we can’t, I will continue to push back to save jobs and stop the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt.”
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