House, Senate on Collision Course on Transportation Bill

Posted March 21, 2012 at 1:20pm

House Republicans and Senate Democrats are nearing a standoff over a short-term extension to keep money flowing to surface transportation programs beyond the end of the month, when federal authorization expires.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said today that he plans to introduce a short-term extension Thursday.

“I will introduce a short-term extension through June 30 to ensure continuity of current programs while I 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,” Mica said in a statement. “We continue to believe that linking energy and infrastructure is the responsible thing to do in order to meet our long-term needs.”

Mica’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he does not expect to move a short-term extension in an effort to force the House to take up a $109 billion, two-year transportation bill passed by the Senate last week, 74-22.

Asked Tuesday whether he would consider taking up a short-term extension, Reid replied, “I’m inclined not to do that.”

Since passing the bill, Senate Democrats have been pressing House Republican leaders to take up their bill, especially with the authorization expiring at the end of the month.

If no action is taken, the Department of Transportation would have to furlough workers and federal funding for transportation workers would cease to flow.

A similar showdown took place over the summer with the Federal Aviation Administration, which resulted in a partial shutdown of the agency and furloughs of about 4,000 FAA employees and roughly 70,000 private-sector workers.

House Republican leaders have struggled to pass a transportation bill this year and continue to discuss options within their Conference.