After two days of trying and failing to pass a short-term extension of the surface transportation bill, Republicans will now use the regular process to try to force their extension through, with just days to go before a shutdown of federal transportation funding.
A 90-day extension of current law that provides funding for road and transit projects, which expired in 2009, was sent to the House Rules Committee on Wednesday evening.
The move ended an effort to win Democratic support for the two-thirds majority required to pass the bill under suspension of the rules.
It signals Republicans plan to pass their extension with just GOP votes, if necessary, and put pressure on the Democratically controlled Senate to accept it before it leaves town.
A Rules Committee-approved floor vote on the bill could come as early as Thursday.
The Senate has been adamant that they’ve finished work on the surface transportation legislation, and that the bipartisan two-year bill that passed with 74 votes should be taken up by the House. The House attempted to counter with a 90-day and then a 60-day extension under suspension twice, and both times pulled it from consideration. So now they need to hope that they can get 218 Republican votes for the extension. Virtually no Democrats will vote for it, holding to the party line that the Senate bill should get a vote.
If Boehner fails with the extension, he’d have almost no choice but to give the Senate bill a vote. And that could happen; conservative hardliners want to drop transportation funding rather than keep it at the same rate. My guess is that the bill squeaks by, and then you have a real standoff. The Senate would want the House to pass their bill, and the House would want the Senate to pass their bill. And the deadline is Saturday.
The consequences would be significant. Federal transportation projects would end, and over time, states would be unable to collect federal funds for their participation in their road and bridge and mass transit projects. The government would immediately stop collecting $90 million a day in gas taxes. And with the uncertainty, new infrastructure projects would shut down, and over time, the existing ones as well, putting the jobs of roughly 2 million construction workers at risk.