The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a 90-day extension of federal highway programs.
Update: After approval came from the Senate on Thursday night, President Obama has signed the 90-day extension of federal transportation funding, which averts an interuption of the program that would have taken place over the weekend.
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The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a 90-day extension of federal highway programs and the bill will now move to the Senate with just days before federal transportation authorization expires on March 31st.
The House bill, H.R. 4281, was approved in a 266-158 vote. In total, 37 Democrats joined all but 10 Republicans in voting for the approval.
The Senate will now have the choice of accepting the bill as is, altering it, or pressing the House to approve the Senate’s own two-year extension. The House is scheduled to recess at the end of Thursday. More than 134,000 active highway projects and 280,000 construction workers could be affected if the bill did not pass, according to the House Transportation Committee.
In response to the passage of the extension, American Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) President Dennis Slater issued the following statement:
"It has been 911 days and eight extensions since the last highway bill expired. It is a great disappointment to the nearly 21,000 supporters of the I Make America campaign, U.S. equipment manufacturers, and their tens of thousands of employees that Congress must resort for the ninth time to a short-term extension to prevent our nation’s critical transportation programs from shutting down.
"Because current funding expires on March 31st, there is unfortunately no choice but for Congress to pass the ninth extension of this vital national program. But enough is enough. The House must act immediately within this extension period to pass its highway bill and move to conference with the Senate.
"As we have repeatedly said, there is no single piece of legislation that will do more to immediately create American jobs, and drive U.S. economic growth and global competitiveness for the long term. Delay must no longer be considered an acceptable option."
T. Peter Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, also offered this joint statement:
“We commend the House of Representatives and Senate for passing legislation to ensure the continued operation of the federal highway and public ransportation programs as the 2012 construction season begins cranking up.
“This action notwithstanding, extension after extension of these programs is no substitute for a multi-year reauthorization that could begin to address the nation’s staggering infrastructure challenges.
“The current surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, expired more than 910 days ago. We respect the legislative process and the right of both the House and Senate to pass their own bill. With an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the Senate has passed its multi-year bill. It is now the responsibility of the House of Representatives to either advance its own alternative or utilize another mechanism to allow the two chambers to reconcile their differences.
“Given the bipartisan support in both chambers for critical transportation policy reforms and proactive steps to shore up the Highway Trust Fund’s fiscal outlook, the surface transportation bill is one of the few measures before Congress this year with a realistic prospect of becoming law.
“While we supported the extension approved today to prevent a shutdown of essential infrastructure improvements across the nation, that support should not be confused as acceptance of inaction on a multi-year reauthorization bill. Our members are growing increasingly frustrated that Congress seems incapable of passing critical legislation that improves the flow of commerce and promotes economic growth. The construction industry continues to suffer from chronic unemployment and the continued delay in enacting a longer term bill prohibits them from expanding their workforces and investing in new equipment. It is unfortunate that a program that has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support is being used as a means to advance political instead of policy objectives.
"The federal highway and public transportation programs have been governed by extension for 30 months. Congress can and must do better.”