Stopgap highway bill passes U.S. House

WASHINGTON – It looks like MnDOT won’t have to start planning for a shutdown of federal highway programs this weekend. The Republican-controlled U.S. House passed a three-month extension of the current highway bill Thursday and the Senate is expected to follow later in the day.

The extension passed 266-158, with Republicans mostly favoring the legislation and Democrats opposed. DFL Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz joined all four Minnesota House Republicans in voting for the three-month extension. DFL Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voted no.

Democrats had opposed the extension because they wanted the House to take up a two-year highway bill passed by the Senate with widespread bipartisan support earlier this month. Senate Democrats have also wanted the House to take up their measure right away, but House Republicans have been unsuccessfully trying to craft their own highway bill for months.

With a two week congressional recess starting Thursday afternoon ahead of the bill’s expiration on Saturday, pressure is mounting on the Senate to pass the extension and revisit the issue in April.

UPDATE: In a statement, Walz said, “Rather than pass the two-year, bipartisan transportation bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate, House leadership is forcing us to go through this whole song and dance again. Except next time it will be at the end of June during the peak of the construction season.”

UPDATE: The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent.

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