Speaker John Boehner remains hopeful his team can round up enough GOP support to pass a 90-day extension of the transportation bill.
“Well, because it couldn’t pass the first time!” the frustrated source quipped, noting that conservatives have been one of the key stumbling blocks to Boehner’s months-long highway push.
McCarthy spent much of the weekend talking to individual Members to assuage their concerns. Although it is unclear whether he has the votes, the fact that leadership was pushing ahead with the plan could signal they are cautiously optimistic.
Still, Boehner is taking few chances. The Rules Committee today is expected to consider a closed rule for the bill, which would likely preclude conservatives from offering any amendments on the floor. Moving the bill under a rule also means Boehner needs only a bare majority. It is unclear whether Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will whip against the bill, but it is unlikely Boehner can count on any Democratic support.
Boehner has also repeatedly said over the past several months that he does not want to pass the Senate’s bill, although he has not ruled it out specifically. Leadership aides said that while whatever the conference produces will not be to conservatives’ liking, at this point his maneuver might represent Republicans’ best option for shaping the final bill.
Still, conservatives remain skeptical and are pushing Boehner for more assurances.
For instance, on Monday Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) began circulating a letter to Boehner among members of the Republican Study Committee laying out conservatives’ demand for legislation devolving transportation programs to the states, while urging him not to bring the Senate bill or anything similar to the floor.
“House conservatives are determined to cut red tape and bureaucracy to make programs more efficient and effective. The American people deserve legislation that will get Washington out of the way and that helps improve our infrastructure by returning more revenue and authority to the states,” Pearce wrote in the letter.
“Ultimately, the Senate bill continues to send the current transportation system down an unsustainable path. In order to ensure that the system does not go bankrupt, House conservatives urge you to not take up” the Senate measure, he added. Pearce is expected to send the letter to Boehner later this week.