House extends highway funding to Dec. 3 amid delayed infrastructure vote
The House on Thursday passed yet another short-term extension of highway and transit construction programs that are set to expire on Sunday in order to avert thousands of worker furloughs and halted projects.
Lawmakers similarly passed a short-term patch a month ago when House Democrats were unable to clear the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill that would renew the highway programs for five years.
With House Democrats still split over strategy to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a social spending package, lawmakers punted on the infrastructure bill and instead passed the latest extension through Dec. 3 on a bipartisan basis in a 358-59 vote.
Before adjourning Thursday, the Senate agreed that a highway funding extension would be deemed passed by unanimous consent.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the latest extension “will help provide additional time to work through the final resolution of a long-term surface transportation bill.”
Dec. 3 is also when funding for the rest of the federal government and a debt limit extension expires.
DeFazio quipped that it will be “a momentous day around here.”
Nearly 4,000 Transportation Department workers would risk furloughs if the highway funding were to expire. State and local transportation officials also warned last month that a lengthy lapse would result in delays of road and transit projects.
House Democratic leaders had wanted to clear the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday to give President Biden a legislative victory before he left for a Group of 20 meeting and an international climate summit in Europe.
They also wanted to boost gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey ahead of elections in those states on Tuesday.
But progressives maintained that they needed legislative text, not just the framework unveiled by the White House earlier Thursday, for the social spending package to feel comfortable backing the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“There is too much at stake for working families and our communities to settle for something that can be later misunderstood, amended, or abandoned altogether. That is why dozens of our members insist on keeping both bills linked and cannot vote only for one until they can be voted on together,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus leader, said in a statement.