House Working on Transpo Extension, Buying Time for Backwards Bill

It looks like everyone who bet on “extension” can collect their winnings.

Chairman John Mica is still trying to write a five-year transportation bill, and the House is on course to buy time for him to do it. Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland

As expected, the House will not vote on the Senate’s transportation bill before the current transportation law expires on March 31, opting instead to buy more time with a stopgap measure. They will likely use that time to try whip up support for a five-year bill that funnels money toward highways and away from city streets and transit systems.

John Mica, chairman of the House transportation committee, told reporters after today’s Rally for Roads that “a decision will be made on the length of an extension hopefully in the next 24 hours and it will be up next week,” according to The Hill.

Politico caught up with a few members and heard much the same:

Bill Shuster, a top House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member, thought it likely the House first goes for a clean extension of perhaps 45-60 days. “I think we’d get Democratic votes for it,” he said, adding, it “will give us some time to continue working toward a five-year bill, which we think is the key to passing it in the House.”

The move is not particularly surprising, given how the House has ground to a halt over the last few weeks.

Almost this exact same situation unfolded last summer with the federal aviation bill — then, too, the Senate approved a bill long before the House, who opted for a short-term extension rather than a long-term bill. At that point, however, the Senate refused to play ball, and federal aviation programs went into shutdown.

So far, all parties have voiced their unwillingness to see another shutdown. But the Senate may still try to write some of their reforms into any extension the House brings forward, and then it would be the House’s turn to play ball.