Congressional lawmakers temporarily extend highway spending authority
March 29th, 2012
03:21 PM ET
2 years ago

Congressional lawmakers temporarily extend highway spending authority

Washington (CNN) – It's not a permanent fix, nor will repairs suddenly happen to certain run-down roads, but congressional lawmakers have passed a 90-day extension of the federal transportation budget just ahead of an end-of the-month deadline.

If Congress had failed to act, funding for transportation projects would have run out. President Obama must still sign the measure.

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The Senate approved the stopgap measure from the House Thursday afternoon. The Republican-led House declined to take up a long-term transportation budget previously passed by the Senate.

House Speaker John Boehner had told reporters the Senate bill had "what I'll call gimmicks in terms of how it's paid for." He added "they just run down the Highway Trust Fund to virtually zero, which is gonna, it may get 'em through the next year and a half, but it's gonna cause a very big problem when this has to be addressed again."

So apparently without enough time to craft a compromise, Boehner said the House was compelled to pass a shorter-term measure, "doing what I think is the responsible thing in meeting the statutory deadline, trying to make sure that we don't have a stoppage of construction is really important."

Earlier this week, a proposed five-year spending plan in the House was sidetracked by a failure to agree on unrelated provisions that included drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other energy measures.

Boehner and others expressing concern about letting highway funding expire may not have solved the problem, according to some Democrats, who believe financially-strapped state governments may not start long-term highway repairs without a long-term commitment of federal funding.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, at a Thursday morning news conference before the votes, said his state has several major bridge and highway projects that are long-term and require a matching federal partnership. He said "a short-term extension does not allow us to move forward."

Cardin, accompanied at the event by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, stood with several people dressed in hard hats and orange safety vests representing highway construction workers.

Boxer read a list of states and a tally of thousands of highway construction jobs she said would be detoured and delayed if a long term transportation bill is not passed by Congress.

In the background at the outdoor event was a flatbed truck with a large, symbolic roll of "duct tape," suggesting repairs would be haphazard with just temporary spending measures.

After the House approved only a stopgap highway bill, the White House issued a statement that said in part "it is not enough for us to continue to patch together our nation's infrastructure with short-term band-aids."

Cardin, when asked by reporters whether the stopgap spending bill could lead to slipshod repairs by states that are short on money, replied "Yes, I think it does put safety at risk," since the wording of the full legislation emphasized highway maintenance.

"A temporary extension won't get that done," he concluded, suggesting state budget authorities would consider it an uncertainty among highway repair projects that those states could not afford on their own.

- CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Dana Bash contributed to this report

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Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Republicans
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Former Republican, now an Independent

    The country needs to get these obstructionist republicans out of office as quickly as possible.

    March 29, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Attila, The Hun

    Congress is pathetic.

    March 29, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. edpeters101

    Please get some intelligence into the Congress that can set up needed programs to get the US back on its feet. Enough of these people and their special interests, and ideologies that breaking the US in half! YMMV

    March 29, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. Steven Colo

    And, instead of funding, the Congress passes another band aid bill. Making the most fuss over doing as little as possible.

    March 29, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Pete

    Republicans want to bring the US to its knees,we will rebell first before that happens,much like Greece.Everything the rightwingers want is with a price tag,where were you during the pillage of 2000-2008,the Bush years ,when he almost tanked the country,with plenty republican help ,mind you...Repubs listened to their teabaggin idols,what did it get us ,our S&P rating fell,no thanks to their whinning nitwits...They'll never get our budget balanced because republicans want too much sacrifice from the middle class,at all costs..The 1%ers have never really sacrificed except years ago when almost all paid dearly during the republican years....

    March 29, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. James M. Hill

    If we are going to get anything done in Congress we all need to get out tell people to vote for Dems to the House and Senate and hopefully things will get done. Roosevelt got it done, so can we.

    March 29, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Scef

    Boehner, your stupid. Cantor, your ignorant and stupid. They couldn't even pvsh their own bill thru the repub controlled house. Their obstructionist tactics are costing jobs because states will not move forward with larger projects for fear of funding. The TP misread the tea leaves.

    March 29, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Scef

    Boehner, your stupid. Cantor, your ignorant and stupid. They couldn't even pvsh their own bill thru the repub controlled house. Their obstructionist tactics are costing jobs because states will not move forward with larger projects for fear of funding. Welcome to the house minority repubs.

    March 29, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Mike Texoma

    Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may be a good thing over the long (10yrs.+) haul. But our roads and bridges and highways, that part of our infrastructure, is deteriorating rapidly and the repairs need funding now. It is the right thing for America. ANWAR drilling will not affect pump prices for gasoline in my lifetime. Moreover, the ANWR issue involves scientific v. flat earth viewpoints we might argue about until I get too old to care, but the condition and extent of our highway infrastructure affects the profitability of everyone's business and the well being of everyone's community. Holding it hostage to a debate principally involving theology is madness.

    March 29, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  10. geg

    that oil would be for export to china–who do the republicans work for people of america or the people communist china highways and bridges in america should have nothing to do with foriegn owned oil companys in texas

    March 29, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Bob

    Wow – that is a HUGE roll of duct tape on that truck in the background.

    March 29, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. Rick in L.A.

    Excuse me, but is that a giant roll of duct tape in the background on the truck? What a great message to send everyone: "Yes, folks, we're doing all we can for your roads with big giant rolls of tape."
    Have mercy...

    March 29, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. The Greedy Old Pigs declared class war on US!

    Looks like the GOBP is yet again holding the US economy hostage to the GOBP's radical rightwing minority adherence to failed policies. And stalling job creation is their last hope for beating President Obama. Hey wait, I thought the GOBP was all about job creation?

    March 29, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |