Unions criticize House for short-term highway extension


A pair of union leaders sharply criticized the House for passing a short-term extension of federal transportation funding Thursday instead of taking up a multi-year bill that had been approved by the Senate.

Washington-based Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) president Terry O'Sullivan said the decision showed "incompetence and dysfunction."

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"LIUNA is appalled that the U.S. House of Representatives’ radical GOP wing has succeeded in derailing passage of a long-term Highway Bill that fully invests in America’s transportation systems and protects good jobs," O'Sullivan said in a statement. "With one-in-four bridges in America deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, House Republicans are forcing Americans to play Russian roulette every day when they drive to work, pick up groceries, or travel with their families."

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) president Larry Hanley agreed, saying "House Republicans are more worried about their two-week ‘spring break’ than rolling up their sleeves and passing a real funding bill that would set our nation’s transportation on the right course.

“The House kicked the can down the road once again with the ninth extension of this bill in three years,” Hanley said. “They should have simply taken up the two-year Senate version of the bill, which provides transit systems with much needed flexibility to use federal assistance to keep service on the street and rejects privatization provisions, which would have profited K street lobbyists and their foreign multinational transportation clients.”

The union leaders' comments came after the House approved a 90-day extension of the current legislation that provides funding for road and transit projects, which is set to expire Saturday. Democrats, and liberal-leaning unions, had pressed the House to accept a two-year, $109 billion version of the transportation bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote earlier this month.

But Republicans leaders said Thursday they were approving a short-term extension to buy themselves more time to craft a multi-year transportation bill that can pass in the House.

"We expect that after this 90-day extension, that when we get back, we will move quickly to move a highway bill with our energy initiatives and ship it over to the United States Senate," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said during a news conference Thursday.
 
"We are working on putting together the final touches on that bill and it will be ready when we get back," Boehner said.