Highway bill passage runs into a roadblock

The United States House of Representatives voted April 28 to extend debate for two more months on the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), a controversial six-year highway financing proposal.

A $275 billion plan had been passed earlier by the House, while the Senate countered with $318 billion. The White House recommended $256 billion, and said advisors would counsel President Bush to veto the bill if the final amount is above that.

The April 28 House vote (410-0) marks the third time the legislation has been extended to allow Congress to reach a decision. The decision was necessary to extend highway maintenance, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs as Congress continues to complete a new bill.

In addition, the Bush administration earlier noted a section of the House bill that would prohibit states from receiving most of the highway program money after Sept 30, 2005, unless another law is enacted addressing guaranteed rates of return.

The administration argued that the section was an attempt to obtain higher funding levels by threatening a shutdown of the highway program in 2005, and transformed the legislation into a two-year bill rather than funding for six years. A veto also had been threatened if those measures remained in the bill, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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