House GOP Tries to Smoke Out Democrats on Highway Bill

Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:58am

House Republican leaders are postponing a vote on a short-term highway extension bill until Thursday in hope of forcing Democrats, who have opposed the bill, to fall in line behind it.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) originally tried to pass a 90-day extension, and then a 60-day extension earlier this week in order to avoid a shutdown of federal highway and transit programs at the end of this week.

But Democrats have resisted those efforts, hoping to force the GOP to simply take up a Senate-passed two-year bill.

Although it is unclear whether Boehner will bring up the bill under suspension — which requires two-thirds of the chamber to vote for it — or under a rule, a senior GOP leadership aide said Boehner is committed to avoiding a shut down.

“One way or the other, House Republicans are not going to let it shut down,” the aide said.

Senate Democrats continued to pound House Republicans today, urging them to take up and clear the Senate transportation bill that passed earlier this month on an overwhelming 74-22 bipartisan vote.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who heads the Senate Democrats’ policy and communication operation, used a count down clock to bring home the message that transportation programs expire Saturday.

“It has become clear that [Boehner] has run out of options,” Schumer said. He noted that every effort to pass a House bill and temporary extensions of current law have had to be postponed due to their inability to pass in the House.

“The clock is ticking, time is running out,” Schumer continued. “Speaker Boehner simply cannot pass a transportation bill of any length without Democratic votes and it’s time he accepts that very simple fact. Fortunately there is an easy way out that already has the stamp of approval from some of the most conservative people in the Congress — Senate Republicans.”

Schumer continued: “He could pass the Senate bill plain and simple … bipartisan does the job; no ideological pitfalls for either side. Why doesn’t he do it?”