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Short-Term Highway Bill at Issue in House

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said GOP leaders had the 218 votes to pass the 90-day extension of the transportation law.

“We still are going to have people [in our Conference] that are going to think that highway spending should not exceed the receipts from the trust fund ... but I would be surprised if we couldn’t get 218 Republicans to think that extending the highway program and not shutting down all the road projects in their district before Easter was a good thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday afternoon urged the Rules Committee to allow Democrats to offer the Senate’s two-year extension as an amendment to the 90-day bill.

In a letter to Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), Rahall argued, “It is far past the time to stop the political games and brinkmanship which have forced states to delay bid lettings and projects. ... Our amendment provides Congress an opportunity to end these pointless games.”

But Republicans did not give Democrats such an opportunity. At a minimum it would be a politically difficult vote for a number of Republicans, and given the broad level of support for the Senate bill in the House, there is some concern that it could, in theory, pass.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Democrats continued to hammer House Republicans, urging them to take up and clear their chamber’s transportation bill.

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

“The clock is ticking, time is running out,” Schumer said. “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?”

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