Week ahead: Highway fight enters final stages

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The fight over the future of federal transportation funding moves to the Senate this week after the House passed a $10.9 billion temporary extension last week.

Republicans leaders in the House have expressed confidence that the Senate will accept their version of the transportation funding measure because it was approved in the lower chamber by a wide 367-55 margin. 

"It's a sound proposal," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a news conference. "It's why it got bipartisan support in the House and it's frankly why it's going to get bipartisan support in the Senate." 

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Senate Democrats had hoped for a shorter extension that would have kept alive the possibility of raising the 18.4 cents per gallon gas tax that is traditionally used to pay for transportation projects. 

Democrats have grumbled about the House's decision to put off the broader transportation funding fight until the next Congress, arguing that an eight-month extension amounted to kicking the can down the road.

“All this does is set us up for the crisis a few months from now," President Obama said in a speech last week. "Congress shouldn't pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months. Kicking the can down the road a few months ... instead of barely paying our bills in the present, we should be investing in our future.”

Despite Obama's complaints, the White House has said that he will accept the GOP transportation funding legislation, adding to Republican confidence that the Senate will be forced to accept their version of the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he will allow votes on the House's transportation bill as early as this week.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has told lawmakers that the U.S. could lose 700,000 construction jobs and that states would have to take a 28 percent funding cut if the highway fund is allowed to go broke.

Elsewhere this week, investigators will continue probing the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 amid mounting tensions between Russia and the U.S. and Europe. 

The Malaysia Air flight was reportedly shot down over Ukraine last week, resulting in the death of 295 passengers who were on board the plane. 

U.S. and Ukraine officials have alleged that the plane was shot down by Russian separatists who were pushing for greater autonomy within the eastern European nation. 

Lawmakers have begun pushing for Russia to face repercussions for allegedly shooting down the jetliner, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered U.S. airlines to stay away from the area of the accident. 

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