Sen. Bob Corker is working the phones, trying to garner support on the House side for a shorter Senate-passed highway extension in a bid to force action in the lame duck.
Even though the effort is likely to be futile, given comments by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, that the House would return the measure to the Senate with the changes stripped out, the Tennessee Republican still thinks the final 79-18 vote was a victory.
"Regardless of the outcome over the next two days, it was a tremendous victory where people were actually on the Senate floor debating something and pushing for a rationale to actually solve the problem won out over expediency," Corker said at a Wall Street Journal breakfast. "Let's face it. Congress has been skating now for seven-and-a-half years."
Corker said colleagues in the Senate were persuaded by arguments about allowing the Senate's work product to advance on its own merits.
"Look, we've been talking about regular order. You had a bill that came out of the Finance Committee ... and I think it hit a chord with people that you can't argue for regular order when it's convenient for you and against it when it's not," Corker said. "At the end of the day, last night I consider to be one of the most major victories in the United States Senate — leadership on our side whipped heavily against it, heavily against it — and the fact is that people rose up and said no. We want to solve this problem and try to deal with it by year end.
"What happens in the House? I was on the phone last night. I was on the phone this morning," Corker said. "I don't know."
As for people who say that not pushing the surface transportation debate into the next Congress would lead to just another extension anyway in the post-election lame duck session, Corker (a rare GOP advocate for a gas tax increase ) said that the parameters of debate are already well-known.
"You know, people say there's not enough time. Well, how many new ideas are there relative to the Highway Trust?" Corker said. "Not many."