House Dem: Stalled highway bill shows Republicans 'hate America'
House Democrats on Tuesday afternoon repeatedly criticized House Republicans for trying to approve a 60-day extension of federal highway programs, and one, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) went so far as to say Republicans "hate America" and "hate government."
"They hate government so much, they will say that investment by the government in building a national transportation system, and maintaining it, and rebuilding it with Made in America requirements," DeFazio said on the House floor. "Why would they say that? Because they got 80 people on their side of the aisle who do not believe we should have a national transportation plan or policy."
DeFazio's "hate America" comment drew a rebuke from Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), but not a call to have his words stricken from the record. "I do take offense to the fact that he said we hate America," Shuster said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was also critical, warning Republicans that they only have until the end of this week before federal highway authorization expires.
Members debated a new version of H.R. 4239 that would extend federal highway programs for 60 days. The bill is an alternative to the 90-day extension Republicans tried to move Monday, but pulled back in light of Democratic objections.
The House debated the 60-day extension under a suspension of House rules, which means a two-thirds majority vote is needed for passage. Republicans would have needed about 50 Democrats to pass the bill later Tuesday evening, but Republicans canceled the vote soon after the debate, a sign that Democratic objections will prevent them from approving the bill by suspension vote.
Aside from calling on Republicans to accept the two-year reauthorization passed by the Senate, Democrats argued that the 60-day extension is too long and would not put enough pressure on the House to quickly reach a longer-term authorization. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said the 60-day extension is "lavish," and complained that Republicans had not consulted with Democrats before moving the bill to the floor.
"This legislation is yet another example of the Republican leadership's 'my way or the highway' approach to legislating," Rahall said. "There was no consideration, consultation with anyone on this side of the aisle prior to this particular measure being introduced and scheduled for consideration.
"The extension is unduly long, and it ignores the fact that we do have a solution in hand, in the form of a bipartisan Senate surface transportation bill, which passed the other body the week before last," he added.
Republicans have indicated they want to cut the $109 billion, two-year authorization passed by the Senate, but have been unable to reach a deal that most Republicans can support. Rahall said the original House bill, a five-year authorization, would cut spending and "destroy" 550,000 jobs.
But House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) argued that Republicans need just a bit more time, and that this extension — Mica's third as chairman — is nothing like the six extensions that Democrats were forced to approve when they controlled Congress.
"The fact is that the Democrats on the other side of the aisle, when they controlled the entire House of Representatives, the United States Senate, the other body in a huge majority, and the White House, they did six extensions," Mica said.
— This story was updated at 4:41 p.m. to note that the GOP pulled the bill from the vote schedule on Tuesday night.