President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to call on Congress to pass a clean extension of the transportation bill when Members return to work from the August recess next week.
Lawmakers are facing a Sept. 30 deadline to reach an agreement on extending highway funds or else risk losing the authority to collect the 18.4 cents a gallon in federal gas tax and the authorization to spend the money. If the funding is allowed to lapse, states would have to halt the bidding process for new highway and transportation projects and shut down some construction already in progress.
The reauthorization of transportation funds has traditionally been non-controversial. But with renewed focus on the national debt and deficit, Republicans are backing a plan that would curb spending. The situation is somewhat similar to the impasse over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration which led to a partial shutdown of the agency before Congress left town last month.
Obama blamed "political posturing in Washington" for putting jobs at risk at a time when both parties are focusing their messages on expanding employment opportunities. The president will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday to deliver his job-creation plan.
"There's a lot of talk in Washington these days about creating jobs," Obama said in his address. "But it doesn't help when those same folks turn around and risk losing hundreds of thousands of jobs just because of political gamesmanship. We need to pass this transportation bill and put people to work rebuilding America. We need to put our differences aside and do the right thing for our economy."
According to Obama, 4,000 workers would be furloughed without pay immediately if an extension isn't passed.
Lawmakers will have to work quickly to forge a deal since both chambers are expected to recess Sept. 23 for Rosh Hashanah and not come back into session until October.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) used his Labor Day weekend message in the GOP's weekly address to focus on promoting passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, a tool which he argued would remove a government barrier to job creation. Goodlatte said Obama should use his speech to Congress next week to call for passage of the measure, which would then be sent to the states for ratification.
"This won't be easy. As you know, a onstitutional amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress before it goes to the states," Goodlatte said. "We need bipartisan support to get the Balanced Budget Amendment across the finish line."
He added: "This Labor Day, America's workers are right to ask where the jobs are. You deserve better answers. The policies coming out of Washington aren't getting it done."