Transportation Bill Extension Further Delays Long-Term Solution

BY Linda J. Scott  March 29, 2012 at 6:43 PM EST

Congress is poised to go home for a one-week recess after punting — once again — on a long-term transportation funding bill. The Senate on Thursday approved the temporary measure, a 90-day extension for funding road, rail and bridge construction, to avoid busting the March 31 renewal deadline. The extension heads to President Obama for his signature, but not without drama.

A few months ago, the House attempted to craft a $260 billion surface transportation bill that would build and repair roads, rails and infrastructure — and create jobs. But House GOP leaders were unable to rally support from conservative members who see the bill as too costly. The Senate passed its own version of the bill, a $109 billion measure, with bipartisan support, and the president and Senate leadership urged the House to vote on that alternate plan.

Roadwork_AheadBut House leaders could not muster enough votes to pass any extension of the current funding, so the bill was pulled twice from the floor this week before finally passing the 90-day plan.

“We expect that after this 90-day extension, when we get back, we will move quickly to the highway bill,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.”We are working on putting the final touches on that bill and it will be ready when we get back. The 90-day extension was the most responsible way forward.”

Senate Democrats did not see it that way, with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York complaining of a “paralysis” in the House. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana agreed: “This country doesn’t need short-term extensions, it needs long-term answers.”

This is eerily similar to the brinksmanship that occurred during debt limit negotiations last summer when both chambers pushed the nation to the edge of default — and of the December battle over the passage of a payroll tax.

In other Congressional news, the House on Thursday passed a Republican blueprint for a budget, and the Senate failed to approve legislation that proposed ending subsidies for oil companies.

Photos by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images (top) and the American Red Cross.