The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said today he would introduce legislation on Thursday calling for a three-month extension of federal highway and transit funding programs.
The move by Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) to extend funding until June 30 comes as House leaders wrangle over legislation to authorize funding for key infrastructure programs over a multiyear period. Mica's committee has approved a five-year, $260 billion bill, but the legislation has fallen about 50 votes short of the 218 needed for passage in the House. A sizable number of lawmakers are reluctant to support the bill because of its cost.
The House's hand may be forced by Senate passage earlier this month of a two-year bill that proposes spending $109 billion, or $54.5 billion per year. Many industry groups have hailed the Senate version and have urged the House to take quick action before March 31, the date the most recent temporary extension of highway programs expires.
Mica said his request for a three-month extension is "designed to ensure continuity of current programs" beyond the current deadline and gives the House an opportunity to craft a bill that can pass the chamber.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated that he may lean toward supporting the Senate version if the House cannot come to an agreement on its own. However, Mica, writing yesterday in the publication "The Hill," criticized the Senate version, saying it depletes the Highway Trust Fund, the mechanism used to fund highway programs, "in a matter of months" and leaves virtually no money for important infrastructure improvements that can spur job creation.