House leaders on Monday decided to delay a planned evening vote to extend authorization of federal highway programs, citing a new bipartisan effort to agree on how to extend the programs in the short term.
"We are in the midst of bipartisan conversations about a short-term extension of the highway bill," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). "To facilitate those conversations, the House vote on an extension will occur later this week rather than tonight."
But House Democratic leaders were calling on their caucus to oppose the bill, putting it at risk of failure. That opposition was designed to get Republicans to support the Senate-passed bill, which would extend federal highway programs for two years at a cost of $109 billion.
If no agreement can be reached, another option could be to pass the GOP bill under regular order, which would require only a simple majority.
Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Republicans do not favor the Senate-passed bill given the fiscal crisis facing the government, and want to explore other ways to authorize highway programs.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, blasted the delay.
"The Republicans’ belligerent and stubborn ‘my way or the highway’ strategy has once again backfired, but this time the stakes could not be higher for the millions of construction workers whose jobs hang in the balance of this bill as we quickly approach highway programs expiring on Saturday," he said in a statement. "The most responsible path forward at this point would be to drop the political brinkmanship and pass the bipartisan Senate transportation bill that the president could sign before these critical job-creating programs expire Saturday night."
— Keith Laing contributed.
— This post was updated at 6:03 p.m.