President Barack Obama will call on lawmakers to pass a clean extension of a transportation bill when they return from recess next week.
Lawmakers went on recess at the beginning of August without passing a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. That left tens of thousands of people without jobs and cost the country billions of dollars. After a couple weeks, lawmakers agreed to pass a short-term extension so those people could get back to work, but that means there will be another contentious battle over how much funding the FAA should receive when they return from break.
On Wednesday, President Obama will call on Congress to pass a clean extension of the funding bill, which would keep surface transportation funding at current levels instead of subjecting it to spending cuts. His announcement also will focus on the need to keep funding where it is so important projects can be continued or started and jobs can be created or saved – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer David Chavern will join the president.
“The president will discuss the importance of moving forward with this extension to protect nearly a million American jobs and highlight the opportunity we have to work in a bipartisan way to further invest in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure to strengthen our economy and create new jobs across the country,” a White House aide familiar with what the president will say said.
The reason why funding was not passed sooner and why the FAA had to stop its construction projects in the first place, was because the two chambers could not agree on spending levels. Senate Democrats wanted a two-year, $109 billion extension, which would keep spending at its current levels; however, House Republicans wanted a six-year, $235 billion extension, which would be a 34 percent reduction in spending levels. Both are less than the $556 billion proposal Obama requested at the beginning of this year.
The difference is likely to cause another partisan gridlock situation and it is unclear if the two chambers will be able to reach an agreement before the current funding levels expire on Sept. 30. Still, transportation spending advocates on both sides of the debate expect Congress to, at the very least, keep the FAA running by passing another short-term extension. Doing that would keep spending at their current levels during that time.
“We are going to need to do an extension because I don’t think anybody thinks we will be able to get a two-year bill or a six-year bill done in the next 30 days,” a Republican aide said.
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