Dem lawmaker: GOP highway bill maneuvering 'an embarrassment to the House'

The wrangling over a transportation extension comes ahead of the rapidly approaching expiration for the current legislation that funds road and transit projects, which is set to expire March 31. The extension being debated by the House would be the ninth continuing resolution of the legislation since it expired in 2009.

Democrats have tried repeatedly to pressure House Republicans into taking up the Senate's version of the bill, which was approved in a bipartisan vote earlier this month. Democrats introduced the Senate version of the transportation bill (S. 1813) as standalone legislation, and the party also tried to add the Senate's bill to unrelated FCC and healthcare measures as amendments.

The latter efforts were defeated on procedural votes.

Republicans have argued that they are attempting to pass a transportation extension to give themselves more time to craft a long-term version of the bill that can pass the lower chamber. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has identified the transportation bill as a top priority for most of the year, but his preference for a five-year, $260 billion measure has been met with resistance in his Republican Conference.

Boehner proposed paying for his measure with legislation that would increase domestic oil drilling, which was drew sharp opposition from Democrats in the House.

If lawmakers do not pass a highway bill extension by the end of the week, the federal government will be unable to collect the federal gas tax that is normally used to fund transportation projects.

Democrats have said not extending the gas tax, which brings in about $100 million per day to the Highway Trust Fund, will cost about 3 million construction jobs.

However, Republicans have blamed Democrats for the possibility of a transportation shutdown.

“There is only one reason this bill will not be voted on tonight: House Democrats are playing political games with our nation’s economy," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said after the transportation measure was pulled Tuesday.

Democrats in the Senate are planning to continue pressuring House Republicans to take the Senate version of the highway bill. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are planning a news conference at 11:30 a.m.