Obama signs highway bill extension

President Obama has signed the 90-day extension of federal transportation funding that was passed by Congress this week, averting an interruption that would have begun on Saturday. 

Obama had encouraged lawmakers to send him a two-year, $109 billion version of the transportation bill that had been passed by the Senate. But the Republican-led House refused to hold a vote on the Senate measure, opting instead for an extension of current law through June 30.

The extension (H.R. 4281), which is now complete with Obama's signature, is the ninth continuance of the last multiyear transportation bill, which was approved by Congress in 2005. That measure — the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) —expired in 2009, and was signed by former President George W. Bush.

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In a statement released before the Senate voted to approve the extension after it was received from the House, the White House lamented the fact that the lower chamber had ignored the upper's transportation bill (S. 1813). But press secretary Jay Carney said it was important, for now, not to let transportation funding lapse.

"While it is critical that we not put American jobs and safety at risk and hurt our economic recovery by allowing funding to run out, it is not enough for us to continue to patch together our nation’s infrastructure future with short-term Band-Aids," Carney said in a statement.

"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," Carney continued. "The Senate has done its part, passing a bipartisan bill with 52 Democrats and 22 Republicans that would keep American workers on the job maintaining our roads, bridges and railways. As soon as the House gets back to work, they should do their part and pass that bill in similarly bipartisan fashion."

Republicans in the House have defended their decision to pass the temporary highway bill, saying they intend to approve their own multiyear transportation measure before the expiration of the 90-day extension.

"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 BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE (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," BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE said.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), who has been criticized by Democrats for the House's handling of the highway measure, added that congressional negotiations over transportation bills are usually time-consuming. 

"It almost always takes two years to do a transportation bill, and I've been at it for 14 months," Mica told reporters after the House vote Thursday. 

"I think there is progress we've made," Mica said. "I am very pleased with the outcome today."

Erik Wasson contributed to this report.