by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
The White House on Monday continued to pressure the House to accept the $109 billion transportation bill that was passed last week by the Senate, saying that President Obama was ready to sign the measure into law.
The administration has long signaled it supported the Senate’s version of the federal highway bill over the five-year, $260 billion that had been under consideration in the House. The pressure has been amplified since the Senate approved its version of the measure with 74 votes.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney read a prepared statement from the president strongly urging the House to take bipartisan action on the transportation bill “so I can sign this into law.”
Carney said Obama was “calling on the House to follow the Senate’s lead.”
“The House like the Senate should act,” he said. “We want to see action.”
The House has not definitively indicated whether it will take up the Senate’s version of the transportation bill or continue pursuing a version of the legislation on its own, though many industry observers are expecting the chamber to pass a short-term extension of the funding that is scheduled to expire March 31.
Among the objections to the House’s original version of the measure from the White House and congressional Democrats was Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plan to tie infrastructure spending to increased domestic oil drilling. The measure also came under fire from fiscally conservative Republicans for spending more on road and transit projects than the amount that is brought in by the federal gas tax.
Boehner also floated the idea of passing an 18-month transportation bill that restores public transit funding that would have been cut under the original version of the measure, hoping to win back at least the support of Northeast Republicans who decried the original measure’s transit cuts.
Boehner’s office has said the Speaker will not decide on a final course for moving forward on the transportation bill until he speaks to members of the House Republican caucus.
—Amie Parnes contributed to this report.