Congress Passes Highway Bill To Avoid Shutdown

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After weeks of false starts, the House approved an extension of the highway construction authorization law that expires on Sunday. Yet again, the extension is a short one of only 90 days.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It wasn't just the budget that lawmakers clashed over today. The House and Senate each passed short-term transportation bills. And that sets up yet another showdown over spending, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: If Congress hadn't passed the short-term transportation bills, beginning this weekend, the government wouldn't have been able to spend money on transportation programs or collect fuel taxes. Disaster averted, right?

JOHN HORSLEY: Well, what states need right now is certainty, and we have anything but certainty.

GLINTON: John Horsley is with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He says this is the ninth extension.

HORSLEY: So we've been facing a whole series of uncertain - six-month period, three-months period, one-month - periods for the last three years. It's driving the states nuts.

GLINTON: The Senate passed its own highway bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. The trouble is in the House, where many Republicans balked at how the bill was paid for. Speaker John Boehner says a temporary plan is as good as it will get - for now.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Trying to make sure that we don't have a stoppage of construction is really important. And so extending this current highway bill for 90 days was the most responsible way forward.

GLINTON: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: What miracle is going to happen? What enlightenment is going to come upon us that they will finally be able to pass a bill?

GLINTON: And if Congress can't come to a long-term agreement, they could always pass another extension in about 90 days. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, the Capitol.

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