WASHINGTON -- The House late Wednesday approved the $151 billion highway and mass transit bill, sending it to conference with the Senate next week.
The House's action on the six-year reauthorization bill came more than three weeks after funding for the transportation programs expired on Oct. 1. Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner warned that states are starting to run out of money and have stopped work on some highway projects, causing thousands of construction jobs to be lost.
Senate leaders have been impatiently awaiting House action on the bill since the Senate passed its $123 billion version last spring. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, D-N.Y., and other principal Senate conferees said they would not agree to a temporary extension of the program because of the need to keep pressure on the House to pass the bill and quickly finish conference.
The House's overwhelming 343-to-83 vote Wednesday night came despite a strong veto threat issued by the White House. The President's senior advisers said Wednesday that they would recommend a veto because of the bill's proposed extension for four years of the 2.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase enacted last year and its excessive spending levels.
President Bush has proposed spending only $105 billion on the highway and mass transit programs over five years.
Many Republicans echoed the White House's objections in House debate over the bill, but its generous spending provisions for projects in many members' districts seemed to overwhelm the reservations of members from both parties.