Transportation bill caught in logjam

March 21, 2012 at 7:41 PM

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. House and Senate leaders Wednesday failed to find common ground on the federal transportation bill, despite a looming shutdown.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood exhorted the House to pass the Senate's $109 billion version.

"For one day, I'm asking the House, set aside politics," LaHood told reporters. "This is to put Americans to work."

House leaders, however, are mulling the possibility of dealing with the March 31 deadline by pursuing a three-month spending extension to give them more time to work on a longer-term solution, the Los Angeles Times said.

The short-term answer does not have the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Times said.

Other Senate Democrats also tried to put pressure on Republican House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

"The clock is ticking on a shutdown of our nation's transportation programs," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate bill would survive a House vote.

"So what the heck is Speaker Boehner afraid of?"' he asked.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the Senate version gives short shrift to energy policy.

"The Senate-passed bill does nothing to address American energy at a time when the American people are being pummeled by rising gas prices," Steel said.

"The plan in the House is to instead take up a short-term highway extension, providing more time for consensus to be built for an approach that acknowledges the need for meaningful action on American energy."

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