House Republicans voted today to extend current surface transportation programs and prevent a devastating shutdown of highway and bridge projects that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Most House Democrats voted against the measure in favor of risking an economically crippling shutdown of programs and projects.
The House approved a three-month extension of current transportation programs (H.R. 4281) by a vote of 266 to 158. Thirty-seven Democrats voted for the extension. The measure now goes to the Senate for approval, which is necessary before programs expire this weekend.
"House Republicans voted to ensure hundreds of thousands of Americans will not lose their jobs and that transportation projects across the country will not come to a grinding halt," said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and sponsor of the legislation. "All week, Democrats have been playing political games with this essential, job-saving bill, but it's time to put people's livelihoods above politics and pass this measure through the Senate.
"The House will continue working toward passing a long-term transportation reform bill that reduces the size of government, streamlines the project approval process, provides flexibility for states to fund their priorities, eliminates earmarks, and is fully paid for," Mica added.
"Without this extension, projects would shut down and over 280,000 construction workers could lose their jobs," said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. "This Country can ill afford a loss of such magnitude during our tenuous road to economic recovery."
Failure to pass an extension of transportation programs will have a number of severe consequences for the economy. Authority to collect gas taxes at the pump -- the primary source of funding for transportation programs -- and deposit them in the Highway Trust Fund will expire at the end of this month. This funding goes to States and municipalities to fund projects. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 134,000 highway projects and 5,700 transit projects are now being supported by gas taxes and the Highway Trust Fund.
Most importantly, under a shutdown, 280,000 construction workers working on infrastructure projects could lose their jobs. A shutdown would also result in approximately 3,500 Department of Transportation employees being furloughed.
The extension, which House Democrats largely opposed today, would extend current law through June 30th to ensure the continuity of programs and jobs.