December 2, 2011 11:00 AM, EST
Mica: No Highway Bill Until New Year
Tom Biery/Trans Pixs

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said this week he will not introduce a highway bill until next year, with the latest extension for transportation spending scheduled to run out March 31.

Mica — who chairs the House Transportation Committee and had planned to introduce his bill by the end of the year — announced the delay during a gathering of transportation experts at the University of Virginia on Tuesday.

He said the House schedule did not allow him enough time to present a bill this month.

Mica spokesman Justin Harclerode said: “Republican leadership and the committee remain committed to moving this important infrastructure jobs bill early next year, likely in January or February.”

Mica assured those at the transportation gathering that lawmakers “could still complete action in the House and move to conference with the Senate on a timely basis,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“He also stated that he thought that as far as he was concerned the March 31 deadline was a hard deadline and that would force the House and Senate to take action by the deadline,” Horsley said.

Once it adjourns for the holiday season, however, the House is not back in session until Jan. 17 and has scheduled one-week recesses in both February and March.

The House and Senate have been working separate tracks for a highway bill, with a key Senate panel passing a two-year reauthorization measure, while Mica and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have said they will propose a five-year highway bill.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a recent interview with the Peoria (Ill.) Star-Journal, that Congress must pass a highway bill before the end of the year or states will be unable to hire workers in time for the 2012 construction season.

A reauthorization bill “really translates into jobs for America,” LaHood told his hometown newspaper.

Meanwhile, House Democrats, led by the minority’s ranking member on the Transportation Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.), introduced a bill Wednesday that would require such things as steel for transportation and other infrastructure projects to be made in America.