Senate Dem questions Boehner's 'capacity for governance' in House

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Monday evening said the failure of House Republicans to agree on a bill extending federal highway programs calls into question the ability of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to govern.

"This is not complicated," Whitehouse said on the Senate floor after outlining the failure of Republicans to agree on a long-term funding package. "We have been doing it since Eisenhower was president, and the fact that we can't do it now says a lot about the capacity for governance of the House of Representatives under this Speaker."

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The House last week passed an extension of federal highway programs through the end of the fiscal year, which will allow a House-Senate conference on that bill and a two-year bill the Senate passed with bipartisan support. While House Democrats saw this as progress, many Democrats were still complaining that the House failed to consider the Senate-passed bill.

Whitehouse on Monday evening argued that short-term extensions are harmful "job-killers," since they leave no confidence about the prospect of long-term funding for projects. He also complained that the House bill included language mandating the approval of the Keystone pipeline.

"So, they've missed a chance to pass really good bipartisan legislation out of the Senate, they've passed a job-killing extension that is very harmful to folks doing highway work around the country, and they complicated it further by throwing a controversial on top," Whitehouse said. "If you're serious about jobs, we should stop that nonsense, take up the Senate bill, and pass it in the House, and get everybody to work."

While Whitehouse slammed the House for passing two short-term extensions, House Republicans have said for several months that Democrats are overreacting to these extensions, as Democrats themselves passed six short-term highway extensions when they controlled Congress and the White House.

Both the House and Senate are expected to appoint conferees to the highway bill as early as this week. The House bill, H.R. 4348, is a clean extension, while the Senate bill, S. 1813, is a two-year bill that funds highway programs at $109 billion over that period.