Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Schedules Hamper Highway Bill Timeline

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Sen. Barbara Boxer held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the conference committee’s progress on a transportation bill.

The California Democrat worked with the top Republican on her committee, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), to craft the Senate bill. Inhofe is one of the body’s most conservative Members, but he has steadfastly defended the infrastructure spending.

Boxer touted the support of the traditionally Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which published an op-ed earlier this week stating “it’s still critical” to get the transportation authorization bill approved, despite some of its flaws.

And she’s hoping the relatively open and transparent process will lead to another completed bipartisan product. She intends to deliver weekly updates, much like the press conference she held Tuesday. Boxer indicated what several aides close to the panel have suggested: that at least so far, no Member has doubled-down on any single issue, and lawmakers are still fairly open-minded about what might be included in the final product.

One of the more controversial measures, for example, is language on the Keystone XL oil pipeline included in the House bill. The pipeline enjoys bipartisan support, but President Barack Obama has said he would veto any bill that includes its authorization. Boxer would not say definitively whether Keystone would be removed from the final report, but she did note that she represents the “will of the Senate” in the panel and that the Senate has rejected the pipeline.

Boxer also said that no one on the committee has indicated Keystone would be a deal-breaker.

“No. No one has laid a marker down or [drawn] a line in the sand,” she said.

Most of the staff work to date has come from aides to the committee chairmen. But there are smaller working groups within the larger, 47-member conference. Those working groups are being led by Members whose committees roughly match up to the issues at hand.

For instance, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is working on finding offsets for the legislation and Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is working on transportation safety provisions.

Other working groups are dealing with the reparations from BP to states affected by the 2010 oil spill, the Keystone pipeline and coal ash.


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