Dem leaders urge opposition to GOP short-term highway bill

House Democrats are attempting to block a vote on a 90-day extension of federal transportation programs that is scheduled for Monday evening.

The move is intended to pressure Republicans in charge of the lower chamber to accept a two-year version of the measure that has been passed by the Senate instead of passing their own shorter-term extension, which would run through June 30.

The vote is expected Monday evening under a suspension of the normal House rules for considering legislation, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office. 

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The push by House Democrats against the bill could keep it from reaching the two-thirds majority required for passage when it comes up under a suspension of the rules. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republicans moved to the shorter-term bill after a five-year measure backed by Boehner did not win support from members of his conference. Democrats oppose the five-year measure.

"It has been six weeks since the Rules Committee approved a rule governing debate on H.R. 7, the five-year bill approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, over the objection of every Democratic member," Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement. 

"During that period, the Republican Leadership has been unable to garner enough votes among its members to pass that bill," Rahall continued. "Instead of following the lead of the Senate, which worked in a bipartisan fashion to pass a transportation bill with the support of nearly three quarters of the Senate, House Republicans are stubbornly driving us toward the end of the road, allowing their ‘my way or the highway’ approach to blind themselves from bipartisan common sense."

Rahall said he would encourage Democrats to vote against the short-term transportation extension because "allowing Republicans another twelve weeks would do nothing but feed their dangerous addiction to serial extensions and damaging delays, which are causing uncertainty and chaos at the start of the construction season."

"The responsible path forward would be to pass the bipartisan Senate bill," he said. "Republicans risk being responsible for another senseless shutdown, just as they caused with the FAA last summer, if they do not chose the responsible path forward.”

The GOP argued however that Democrats were being irresponsible by trying to block the transportation funding extension. 

"Chairman Mica and House Leaders continue working toward a responsible long-term transportation bill," a spokesman for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said in an email to The Hill. 

"It’s ridiculous to suggest that anyone other than Democrats would be responsible for their own potential votes against a simple 90-day extension, and votes in favor of cutting off transportation funding, ending projects and putting people out of work," Mica's aide continued. "The American people don’t need congressional Democrats playing politics with this short-term extension and threatening jobs and transportation improvements."

If Republicans have to pass the short-term transportation extension with their own votes, they would have to bring the measure up again later in the week under normal House rules.

If the 2009 transportation measure is not extended again — for what would be a ninth time — the government's ability to collect the federal gas tax will expire. 

—This story was originally posted at 1:45 p.m. and it was last updated at 5:01 p.m. 

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