As a March 31 deadline loomed, House Republicans continued to struggle to pass legislation that would keep federal highway and transit programs operating for at least several weeks.
House GOP leaders on March 27 had proposed a two-month extension, but later in the day postponed a scheduled floor vote on that measure.
The day before, Republicans canceled a planned vote on a three-month extension, apparently because they lacked the two-thirds majority needed to pass it.
Surface transportation programs have been running under a series of extensions since September 2009, when the last long-term authorization ran out.
Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors highway and transportation division, says that in the House, “I think we’re talking about political brinksmanship here.” He adds, “It’s very frustrating. I can’t understand why they can’t get together and decide what they’re going to do, moving forward.”
The latest stopgap, the eighth in the series, expires March 31. If Congress fails to pass another extension, state departments of transportation face “a two-pronged, major problem,” says Jack Basso, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials director of program finance and management.
First, Basso says, state DOTs “won’t be able to get any further projects approved, just at the time we start the construction season—which is bad.”
Basso says there is a second problem: “The revenue collection stops, too. It costs you $110 million a day in lost revenue” from motor-fuel tax receipts. “And that’s very significant.”
Senate Democrats have been urging the House to pass the two-year, $109-billion bill that their chamber approved on March 14. But House GOP leaders balked at that.