Both the House and Senate passed 90-day extensions of the nation's major surface transportation bill on Thursday after the House failed to agree on longer term legislation.
The House approved H.R. 4281, the ninth extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, by a vote of 266 to 158. The Senate approved the bill by voice vote a few hours later.
House Republicans issued a press release trumpeting they had "put American jobs ahead of politics," saying had it failed to pass there would have been a "devastating shutdown of highway and bridge projects that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work."
Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi spoke against the temporary extension, favoring a bipartisan two-year Senate transportation bill, which she said would save or create more than 2 million jobs and provide certainty to construction workers and small businesses.
"What is dangerous about what is happening here today is that this initiative, this ‘kick the can down the road,’ this ‘my or no highway bill’ attitude is costing jobs," she said.
Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said "while I am relieved that we’ve been able to avoid letting our job-critical and surface transportation safety programs lapse, I’m frustrated that the House has been unable to act on the Senate’s bipartisan two-year reauthorization, which passed with 74 votes.”
Groups like the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and National Retail Federation (NRF) applauded the passage, but asked for a longer term solution.
AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley said "the clock has been reset and we are optimistic that the House and Senate will use the time available to settle on a new, long-term reauthorization. Passing such a bill will remove the uncertainty that is already causing a number of state departments of transportation to delay billions of dollars worth of highway projects that would otherwise create hundreds of thousands of American jobs."
“It’s important that transportation projects not be left in limbo but that doesn’t lessen the need to pass a long-term funding bill that will let the businesses that rely on our nation’s transportation infrastructure make long-term decisions,” David French, NRF senior vice president for government relations, said in a statement. “Whether it’s construction workers building roads and bridges or retail workers who need to get merchandise to their stores, too many jobs are at stake to fund transportation a few weeks or months at a time. We need a solution that provides certainty about the future.” — Chris Dupin