Mica defends highway stopgap: 'It almost always takes two years to do a transportation bill'

Mica spoke shortly after the House approved an extension of current funding in a 266-158 vote. The extension is the ninth of the transportation legislation that expired in 2009. Mica and other lawmakers in both chambers initially said they did not support another stopgap. 

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Democrats have sharply criticized Mica and other House Republican leaders for their handling of the highway bill extension, calling the GOP approach partisan.

Mica defended both himself and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Thursday, saying they both "tried to be bipartisan." 

"I think our record so far speaks for itself," Mica said. "People want to get the [long term] bill done. We are going to work with leadership, the Speaker, to try to get to conference as soon as we can."

Democrats in the Senate was not nearly as effusive about the short-term highway bill extension, even as they signaled they were preparing to accept it.

"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."

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 ... 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 Saturday.

— Josiah Ryan
contributed to this report.