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House GOP Faces Stark Highway Bill Options

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Majority Leader Harry Reid (above) said he has spoken with the president about a transportation bill making its way through the Senate. Speaker John Boehner is working on a similar bill in the House, but intraparty conflicts may stall his measure.

“I don’t think Republicans want another FAA. ... I think they were embarrassed by that, as they should have been. [Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John] Mica [Fla.] was playing chicken, but he was playing chicken with 74,000 people. ... Bottom line is, I think we’ll do something by March 31,” Hoyer said.

After stumbling over another hurdle Tuesday, Senate leaders were working on an agreement that could pave the way for passage of a stalled transportation bill by the end of the week.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he has discussed the bill with the White House and is hopeful the measure will move forward.

“The president — I’ve met with him. He said he’d like to work to get something done on a bipartisan basis,” Reid said. “We’re going to see what we can do in that regard.”

Reid reiterated his frustration with Republican efforts to try to get votes on amendments not related to transportation.

“There is a lot of other totally unrelated matters,” Reid said. “They’ve got lots of them, and we have to try to work our way through those.”

Senate Democrats were pleased by what they called openness on the part of Boehner to possibly take up a Senate-passed transportation measure.

“Reading between the lines on what Speaker Boehner said, I think there is a good chance that they will take up the Senate bill, and that means it would be a bipartisan bill over there,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

“For the first time in a while, I feel confident that this bill is going to move, it’s going to pass,” she added.

Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the list of nongermane amendments has been significantly whittled down and will likely include a proposal to green-light the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and an amendment to delay and alter boiler pollution regulations.

Senate Republicans were relatively upbeat, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) noting an agreement on amendments was likely.

“With regard to the highway bill, let me just say that we’re very close to having agreed, after weeks of discussion, to a series of amendments,” McConnell said. “There’s no good reason why we can’t finish the highway bill this week, and I fully expect that we will.”

Earlier Tuesday, Reid sought to bring debate to a close on new version of the transportation package, which includes 37 germane, noncontroversial amendments that he said were agreed to by both sides. But Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, with a mostly party-line vote of 52-44.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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