White House signals it will accept 90-day highway extension

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"States and cities need certainty to plan ahead and America’s construction workers deserve the peace of mind that they won’t have to worry about their jobs every few months," the White House statement said, praising the Senate for passing its version of the transportation measure on a bipartisan vote. "As soon as the House gets back to work, they should do their part and pass that bill in similarly bipartisan fashion."

The statement from the White House came as Senate Democrats continued to criticize the House for not accepting its version of the highway measure, a two-year bill that would provide $109 billion for transportation projects.

"If what the House did today becomes law, it means a 90-day stopgap extension of our transportation programs," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "It also means the continuation of thousands of job losses that have already begun due to the uncertainty created by the House approach."

Boxer has shepherded the Senate's version of the transportation bill and held press conferences almost every day this week hammering Republicans for not accepting the upper chamber's version of the measure. She said Thursday that she was working to have the Senate attach its transportation bill to the House's 90-day extension when the upper chamber receives the bill, then send it back to GOP-led lower chamber for further consideration.

"I call on House members to cancel their vacations and come back to have a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, MAP-21," she said. "If we can do that today, we can save the House from itself. If we can’t, I will continue to push back to save jobs and stop the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt.”

Boxer's statement did not mention the quickly approaching Saturday deadline for the expiration of the current funding for transportation, or the fact that the House is planning to adjourn for a two-week recess Thursday afternoon.

But Democratic leaders in the Senate acknowledged Thursday that they will likely have to accept the short-term highway extension.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that the Senate was "waiting to see what the House is going to do" and that "we have been waiting all week and I am confident they can scrounge up the 218 votes."

If lawmakers do not agree on an extension of transportation funding, the federal government’s authority to collect the 18.4 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax would expire.


Josiah Ryan contributed to this report.