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Transpo Bill Conference Devolves Into Talk of Extensions

If you were still hoping a real bill could come out of the transportation conference, here’s a bitter pill: House Speaker John Boehner is now talking about a six-month extension of the current law.

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That extension would expire at the end of the year, along with such a massive bundle of economic initiatives that the lame-duck session is now known by some as “Taxmageddon.” Add to that “Highway Trust Fund-mageddon” – December 31 is just about when the money runs out.

A six-month extension is, arguably, better than a one-month extension, as insiders said [Boehner] was considering previously, or a three-month extension that’s been bandied about – expiring just weeks before the election. Boehner said a longer extension would be necessary to bring the issue “out of the political realm.” The construction and manufacturing industries have also been quietly lobbying for a longer extension, even as they push for passage of a bill, to guarantee at least more certainty than a one-month extension would provide.

It seems the Speaker has been listening. “If we get up to June 30th, I am not interested in some 30 day extension,” Boehner said during a press conference. “Frankly, I think if we get to June 30th, it’d be a six month extension.”

Senator Barbara Boxer shot back, “I am very disappointed that Speaker Boehner is even talking about a long-term transportation extension, which would lead to the Highway Trust Fund going bankrupt, when all of our efforts must be focused on passing a transportation bill by the June 30th deadline.”

Boxer is more and more isolated in her optimism about the possibility of passing a bill. Even the U.S. Conference of Mayors and some governors are now calling for an extension. It appears they, too have lost hope that this conference will lead to a bill.

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