Lawmakers eyeing possible short-term extension of transportation programs

Lawmakers eyeing possible short-term extension of transportation programs
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are considering a possible short-term extension of surface transportation programs set to expire on Thursday if the House isn't able to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by then.

Some federal highway and transit construction programs addressed by the bipartisan infrastructure bill are set to run out on Thursday, which marks the end of the federal government's current fiscal year.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUS expected to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics soon: report Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' MORE (D-Calif.) has set a vote for Thursday on the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which the Senate passed last month, at the behest of centrists demanding action as soon as possible.

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But the legislation appears to lack the votes to pass on Thursday since progressives are threatening to tank it as leverage to secure an agreement with centrists on the larger social benefits package that addresses what they call "human infrastructure."

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud DeFazio becomes 19th House Democrat to retire Thanks to President Biden, infrastructure is bipartisan again — it needs to stay that way MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday that the expiring highway and transit programs will not be left to lapse in any event.

“We will have a plan B if we need a plan B. Right now, I'm not intending to have a plan B," DeFazio said.

"One way or another, we will take care of it, either through passing the [bipartisan infrastructure bill] or if necessary some other form. But there's no way we're going to let it shut down and cause that kind of disruption," he said.

But DeFazio stressed that no final decision has been made given that the Thursday vote on the bipartisan infrastructure is still planned, at least for now.

"I'm just kind of — I'm along for the ride right now because we're voting tomorrow, so I'm planning on that," DeFazio said.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal GOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision MORE (W.Va.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wednesday that she's in talks with the panel's chairman, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems seek to preserve climate provisions Democrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill  Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan MORE (Del.), about a possible short-term extension.

"The solution to this is to pass, obviously, the bill. But since the expiration is Sept. 30, we've been in conversations with Sen. Carper's team, because it's important to make sure that we reauthorize or at least extend the authorization," Capito told reporters.

Congress also needs to send a spending bill to President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE by the end of the day on Thursday to prevent a federal government shutdown.

The House passed a bill last week to keep the federal government funded through Dec. 3 and suspend the debt limit, which needs to be addressed by mid-October, through December 2022.

That bill failed in the Senate on Monday because Republicans have vowed to oppose any measure to prevent a debt default. Both chambers are expected to act Thursday on a bill that decouples the government spending measure from the debt limit, hours before the midnight deadline.