Bush Signs Highway Bill

President Bush (search) signed an extension of an old highway spending bill (search) on Friday as Congress continues to struggle over how best to rewrite the legislation that expired nearly two years ago.

With the seventh extension expiring Thursday, the House and Senate both approved, without debate, an extension through July 19. That action was necessary for funding to continue uninterrupted to the states and to federal transportation programs (search).

The last highway and transit act, funded at $218 billion over six years, expired in September, 2003. Shadowed by a White House threat to veto any bill that it considers too expensive, the House and Senate have been unable to find common ground on a new six-year plan.

This year the House approved a $284 billion bill, the level the administration said was the maximum it would accept, while the Senate passed a $295 billion measure.

Negotiators from the two chambers are near agreement on a total funding level of some $286.5 billion, aides said, but are still talking about how that money is most equitably divided among the states.