House postpones Wednesday vote on highway bill extension

The House is postponing a planned vote Wednesday on a highway bill extension, leaving two days before the possible expiration of federal transportation funding.

The House had been scheduled to try a third attempt to pass a short-term extension of the current legislation that funds road and transit projects, but the measure is listed as postponed on the most recent calendar released by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office.

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The previous attempts on Monday and Tuesday to pass a 90-day and 60-day extension respectively, were pulled after it appeared GOP leaders did not have the required two-thirds vote to consider the measure under a suspension of the House rules.

The announcement comes as Democrats ramped up pressure on House Republicans to accept a $109 billion version of the transportation bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote earlier this month.

Republicans have said the delay in voting on their highway bill extension is not permanent.

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said after Tuesday's unsuccessful effort to pass the transportation extension that the bill would come up later in the week, but not necessarily Wednesday.

“The Democrats said they would not accept a 90-day extension but would accept a 60-day extension," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. "So the plan is to pass a 60-day extension this week."

Steel said "the process by which the House passes a 60-day extension is up to the Democratic leadership.   

"It’s their choice as to whether to work in a bipartisan fashion, or play political games with our country’s economy,” he said.

Democrats countered Wednesday morning that the best option for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is to allow a vote on the Senate bill.

"The Senate two-year bill can be a life boat for Speaker Boehner," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a news conference Wednesday. "He should take it before it's too late."

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.

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