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POLITICS: PennAve

White House backs GOP highway bill, putting it at odds with Democrats

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Politics,White House,Transportation,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Nancy Pelosi,PennAve,Budgets and Deficits,Spending,Infrastructure

The White House signaled support late Monday for a short-term Republican fix to the Highway Trust Fund, backing a GOP bill slammed by Democratic leadership.

“With surface transportation funding running out and hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk later this summer, the administration supports [the House bill,]” the Obama administration said in a statement.

“This legislation would provide for continuity of funding for the Highway Trust Fund during the height of the summer construction season and keep Americans at work repairing the nation's crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems."

Still, the administration officials argued that more needs to be done, a message President Obama will take on the road this week.

“This legislation only provides a short-term fix to the Highway Trust Fund,” the statement read. “It does not address the continued need to pass a long-term authorization bill that creates jobs and provides certainty for cities, states and businesses.”

The question now becomes how actively Democrats will fight the legislation -- and whether the Senate will pass the bill without making significant changes.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for example, slammed the GOP blueprint last week.

“They are talking about a mini bill until next year, to kick the can a little bit, not even down the road but down the path a little bit, instead of embracing what the outside – what the business community, what everybody is saying that we need,” she said. “Their response is so small, as I said to put us in a rut, rather than onto a road of economic growth.”

The White House, however, would rather pass a stopgap measure than take political heat for letting the Highway Trust Fund run dry. Obama has said that 700,000 jobs would be put at risk without congressional action.

Republicans counter that the president should keep the pressure on his own party.

“If the president has a plan for a longer-term bill, the Democrat-controlled Senate ought to act on it,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “But until that happens his speeches on this topic are nothing but background noise.”

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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