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Pressure Mounts on Highway Measure

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
“We’ll do the extension, but it’s destructive,” Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said before the House decided to pull its bill.

Before the House decision to pull the second bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would not commit to taking up a short-term measure from the House.

“My feelings haven’t changed,” Reid said. “I don’t like the extension.”

But it was expected that if the House were to clear the 60-day extension and send it to the Senate, Reid would have brought it up.

“We’ll do the extension, but it’s destructive,” Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said before the House decided to pull its bill.

Democrats wanted to reduce the extension from 90 days to 60 days or fewer because they want to prevent Republicans from having enough time to draft their own version, aides said.

The other reason, Boxer noted, is that states are delaying projects and construction programs, which is jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs.

Boxer said she spoke with transportation officials in North Carolina and was told that 41,000 jobs are on the line.

“They are delaying the remainder of their 2012 projects totaling $1.2 billion ... that would employ 41,000 people ... because of the dithering of the House,” she said.

Boxer added that about 50,000 jobs in Boehner’s home state of Ohio and about 40,000 jobs in Virginia, the home state of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), are on the line.

Boxer chalked up the House decision to hold off on short-term extensions to the pressure being exerted from House and Senate Democrats.

“I’m glad they are pulling this vote because they ought to instead pass the bipartisan Senate transportation bill,” she said on the Senate floor.

Reid said Senate Democrats are planning floor speeches in an effort to keep up the intensity.

“We are going to have [a] series of speeches in the next 48 hours talking about why the Republicans in the House ... are telling their leaders to take up the Senate bill,” Reid said.

“It could pass over there so easy,” he added.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, also said he wanted House Republicans to pass the Senate bill but expects that a short-term measure will be passed.

“I would have preferred not to do it with a short-term extension; extensions are not good,” Inhofe said. “But if they are unable to come up with something to get to conference, the answer is an extension.”

“I prefer the short extension, rather than the longer extension,” Inhofe continued. “Shorter is better because they never do anything until about three days before it expire[s] anyway.”

 

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