Boehner Pulls Second Highway Extension Bill

Posted March 27, 2012 at 3:33pm

Updated: 5:08 p.m.

For the second day in a row, House Democrats successfully beat back GOP efforts to pass a short-term highway extension, demanding Speaker John Boehner agree to take up a long-term, bipartisan Senate version instead.

Although the Ohio Republican appears dead set against moving the Senate bill this week, it remains unclear how he will proceed after Democratic opposition forced Republicans to pull a 60-day extension late this afternoon, GOP aides said.

Boehner’s 60-day proposal came after Democrats rallied against a 90-day measure Monday and forced Boehner to scrap plans to vote on that under suspension of the rules, which requires substantial Democratic support to reach a two-thirds threshold for passage. The 60-day measure was also slated for the suspension calendar.

Boehner had opted to bring the shorter, 60-day bill to the floor because Senate Democrats had reportedly been considering a similar stop-gap bill if the House continued to refuse to move on its two-year bill.

But House Democrats again came out blazing. “I reject the 60-day [measure] when we can do so much more,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said on the floor, demanding that Republicans bring the Senate’s version of the bill to the floor.

“This legislation is yet another example of the Republican leadership’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach to legislating. There was no consultation with anyone on this side of the aisle prior to this measure being introduced and scheduled for consideration,” House Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said on the floor.

“The extension is unduly long. And it ignores the fact that we have a solution at hand, in the form of a bipartisan Senate surface transportation bill, which passed the Senate the week before last,” Rahall added.

Boehner finds himself in a difficult position. According to Republicans, he remains committed to passing a multiyear transportation bill that includes significant reforms to highway and transit programs and strongly opposes any discussion of passing the Senate version, even though he previously indicated he would bring up and pass the Senate bill if House Republicans could not coalesce around a different version.

But how long he can hold out is unclear. Democrats have shown no willingness to negotiate with him given the Senate bill’s strong bipartisan support. And an increasing number of House Republicans are beginning to back taking up the Senate bill, aides said.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Democrats are to blame for Boehner’s decision to cancel the vote. “There is only one reason this bill will not be voted on tonight: House Democrats are playing political games with our nation’s economy,” Steel said.