Highway bill becomes House Republican headache

By Joan Lowy

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 2:45 a.m. MDT

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, accompanied by Rep. Nick Rahall II, D-W.Va., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 22, 2012, to urge the Republican leadership to take up the bipartisan Senate transportation bill.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A transportation bill that House Republican leaders promote as the centerpiece of their job-creation agenda is instead turning into one of their biggest headaches.

Opposition by tea party conservatives who want to get the federal government out of transportation programs and hand them over to the states has helped stall the bill.

The House and Senate are heading toward a showdown next week that could result in a cutoff of federal highway and transit aid to states just as the spring construction season gets under way.

The government's authority to spend money from the trust fund that pays for transportation programs expires on March 31.

Republicans are pressing for a 90-day extension of programs, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's "not inclined" to go along.

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