July 9, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senate Highway Bill Jeopardized

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a Tuesday vote to close debate on a transportation package that has languished in the chamber for weeks. The $109 billion measure would reauthorize surface transportation programs for two years.

Reid said he spoke briefly to Boehner at an event they both attended last week and urged him to pass a two-year bill, which would be easier to conference.

“That’s about the extent of our conversation,” Reid said.

Reid has complained that Republicans have filed more than 100 amendments to the bill and that most are not related to transportation issues, which he believes amounts to a filibuster by amendment.

Schumer said Republicans have not been negotiating in good faith and are focused on appeasing the most extreme right wing of their caucus, which questions the spending in the bill.

“When we offer the Senate Republicans votes on their amendments, and they have asked us for a bunch of tough votes ... but we say, ‘If we agree to those votes, will you let us move forward on the bill?’ And they don’t give us that commitment at all,” said Schumer, who is head of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications operation.

Senate Republicans argue that it is Democrats who have chosen to take a partisan position regarding the bill.

A Republican Senate aide said Democrats could have moved the process forward by choosing some bipartisan amendments out of the 100 that have been offered. But Democrats have chosen not to, the aide said.

“Democrats are in charge; they set the schedule,” the GOP aide said.

So far, the Senate has voted on only one amendment to the bill — a GOP proposal that would have allowed companies and insurance providers to opt out of mandated birth control coverage for religious reasons. It was killed on a 51-48 vote last week.

Reid indicated that there would not likely be a vote on an amendment from Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) to strip out language that would allow the Nevada Department of Transportation to use funds from a 2005 unspent earmark.

“I don’t think I have a plan on doing much about it, so that should answer your question,” Reid said when asked about the amendment.

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