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Bringing the Senate bill to the House floor risks a revolt from his conservative tea-party faction, and it would pass only with the support of Democrats - resulting in a political victory for Democrats.

Doing nothing would halt highway and transit construction projects nationwide - a move that would adversely affect 3 million jobs, Democrats say.

Senate Democrats hit Mr. Boehner hard Wednesday for his refusal to take up the Senate bill, introducing a “countdown clock” to highlight the consequences of failing to renew transportation funding.

“We are moving toward a very dangerous moment here,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat who co-wrote the Senate transportation bill with Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. “I say to Speaker Boehner, you’re the speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Republicans. Reach out to all your colleagues.”