White House: Obama 'pleased' with highway extension, still hopes for multiyear bill

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From the beginning of congressional negotiations over a new transportation bill, Obama had pushed strongly to pressure the House into accepting the Senate's multiyear version of the measure.

The House had sought to approve a bill that would have spent $260 billion over the next five years on transportation, but the measure was opposed by many members of the Republican-led House's GOP caucus.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a play for his version of the transportation bill with legislation that would allow increased domestic oil drilling, which earned the measure the objection of almost every House Democrat.

In the end, the House approved an extension of the current funding for transportation through June 30 on Thursday before lawmakers began leaving town for a two-week recess.

Democrats who pushed hard to pressure the House to accept the Senate's version of the transportation bill were not as happy about the extension as the White House said the president was, though they also said it was important to avert an interruption in transportation funding.

“House Republicans sent out a signal that America should be ready for job losses and hardship, because they didn’t even have the decency to put in that extension a written commitment to produce a bill, to get to conference with the Senate, and to get a bill to the President," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "Thousands of businesses are at stake, and eventually we are talking about nearly three million jobs at stake."

Republicans who offered the 90-day extension offered a much different take.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said the GOP put "people’s livelihoods above politics."

“House Republicans voted to ensure hundreds of thousands of Americans will not lose their jobs and that transportation projects across the country will not come to a grinding halt,” Mica said. 

“The House will continue working toward passing a long-term transportation reform bill that reduces the size of government, streamlines the project approval process, provides flexibility for states to fund their priorities, eliminates earmarks, and is fully paid for,” he said.

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), who is chairman of the transportation committee's Highways and Transit subcommittee, said, “Without this extension, projects would shut down and over 280,000 construction workers could lose their jobs.

“This Country can ill afford a loss of such magnitude during our tenuous road to economic recovery," he said.