House Passes Highway Bill

The U.S. House passed a $275 billion highway spending bill (search) on Friday that earned enough votes to override a presidential veto threat.

The 357-65 final vote surpasses the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.

The measure must be reconciled with a Senate vote in February for a $318 billion package, which President Bush has also threatened to veto. That 76-21 vote is also veto-proof.

 The House Transportation Committee (search) originally considered a $375 billion measure, but knocked out $100 billion under pressure from the White House. Bush has said $256 billion is enough to fund the six-year program. The president has not yet vetoed any measure passed by the Republican-controlled Congress.

Lawmakers say the transportation infrastructure is in critical need of updating and repair, but the money also comes as a boon to states looking for extra cash. Still, several lawmakers expressed disappointment that the House did not vote on the larger sum the panel slashed.

Some conservative Republicans, however, rejected the measure saying it was an example of runaway spending. Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona (search) urged the president to kill the bill, saying that the measure is full of pork for individual districts.

"Mr. President, please veto this bill," said Flake. "Congress is in desperate need of adult supervision."

Flake and Rep. Johnny Isakson of Georgia failed to win an amendment to cut earmarked transportation money from the state's transportation formula.

Since House and Senate negotiators must meet in conference on the differing measures, the White House still has a chance to engage lawmakers to adjust the number to a level that would make it more palatable to the president. However, because the vote was is veto-proof, the White House may find lawmakers unwilling to compromise.