House Extends Highway Funding, Prepares to Negotiate With Senate
Copyright 2012 Bloomberg.
Jeff Plungis and James Rowley
The U.S. House extended current funding of surface transportation programs through Sept. 30, setting up a negotiation with Senate Democrats over multiyear spending.
House Speaker John Boehner, who said yesterday he lacked the votes to get a five-year bill through the chamber, will head into talks with Senate leaders who pushed through a two-year, $109 billion plan with bipartisan support. The extension was approved by a vote of 293 to 127.
Today’s bill was a straight extension of current highway policies with a few additions, only one of which was related to transportation policy. The House adopted a section of the measure drafted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to streamline approval of highway and bridge projects.
The House also attached language that would force the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and added a House-passed bill that would throw regulation of coal ash back to the states.
The White House issued a statement yesterday saying it opposes the bill for its Keystone language, which “circumvents a longstanding and proven process for determining whether crossborder pipelines are in the national interest.”
Boehner said he went to his so-called Plan B, extending current highway programs, because of a lack of support among his fellow Republicans for a five-year $260 billion authorization of road and bridge construction and transit initiatives. Measures spanning years allow states and municipalities to budget and plan for development.
Referring to a measure drafted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Boehner of Ohio told reporters that “if I had my druthers H.R. 7 would have been on the floor six weeks ago, but there weren’t 218 votes.”
Congress passed last month an extension of transportation programs through June 30, the ninth short-term bill since the last multiyear policy legislation expired in 2009. As recently as March 29, Boehner told reporters that leaders were putting “the finishing touches” on revisions to the five-year plan that “would move quickly” when lawmakers returned to Washington this week following a two-week recess.
The bills are H.R. 7 and H.R. 4348.