Senate Clears Highway Bill Extension

Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:21pm

The Senate today bowed to pressure from the House and sent President Barack Obama a 90-day extension of surface transportation programs.

Senators approved the measure by voice vote, averting a shutdown of highway programs set to begin Sunday.

“I would hope that during the Easter recess that the House would be able to come back with something … or accept our bill, which is our preference,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Senate action came after the House passed the extension earlier today 266-158.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who leads the Senate Democrats’ communications and policy operations, said the House left the Senate with a lamentable choice: “Shutting things down or [extending] an old law … that throws people out of work.”

Democrats sought three times to attach the Senate bill that was passed earlier this month on a 74-22 vote. The Senate-passed transportation package would extend the program for two years and provide $109 billion.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected to the Democrats’ requests because, he said, the move would result in a shutdown of the federal highway program.

He said a shutdown would cause states to further cut back on transportation work and add $100 million a day to the deficit because of the inability of the highway trust fund to collect the 18.4-cent-a-gallon gas tax.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) warned that she would object to any further extensions and urged the House to take up the Senate bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that move will result in job losses.

“They sent out a signal that America should be ready for hardship,” Boxer said.