* Proposal would renew construction funding for 3 months
* Boehner must decide whether to revive unpopular House bill
By John Crawley
WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed on Wednesday to renew transportation funding temporarily to quiet a rank-and-file rebellion and give Congress one last chance this year to pass legislation to finance road, bridge and transit construction.
Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica said he would propose a funding extension through June, giving House Speaker John Boehner and fellow top Republicans more time to regroup after a number of members balked at their transportation proposal to spend $260 billion over five years.
Boehner, despite pressure by Tea Party conservatives seeking to cut spending, has pushed for a massive highway and transit bill in a bid to create jobs, certain to be a top issue in the November election.
Congress faces a March 31 deadline to pass a longer-term financing plan or renew temporary construction funding for a ninth time since the last multi-year transportation law expired in September 2009.
If the extension wins congressional approval, Boehner would then have to decide whether to push forward with the unpopular $260 billion Republican plan, postpone a long-term solution until next year, or propose that the House adopt a two-year, $109 billion bill that passed the Senate last week with strong bipartisan support.
Mica supports the more robust approach than the Senate adopted -- even though critics of the House bill question whether federal resources can support $260 billion over five years.
Mica, in a statement, said the goal was to “work toward a responsible transportation bill that provides long-term certainty.”
Critics also are skeptical of a House proposal to expand domestic oil and natural gas drilling as a way to raise money to pay for infrastructure development.
Mica’s extension would also allow the government to continue collecting gasoline tax receipts, which flow into a trust fund to pay for highway and transit construction.
Those revenues have dropped off sharply in recent years due to fewer people driving in a sour economy and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks on the road.
The shortfall has lawmakers sorting through alternative possibilities for raising revenues, including proposals to close certain tax loopholes, the expanded drilling plan and more tolling.