Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would work as quickly as possible to advance a highway funding patch, but an unemployment extension isn't likely to get a chance to hitchhike on it.
"The highway bill has to move forward, and I'm going to do everything I can to expedite it as much as I can, quickly," the Nevada Democrat told reporters.
He signaled that he did not think extraneous items would be attached to the must-pass bill, regardless of which version advances. "I doubt it" Reid said when asked if an unemployment insurance extension would be a piece of the Senate's highway bill debate.
A highway bill funding extension sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., sailed through that chamber 367-55 on Tuesday. The bill won support from the White House, meaning it's beginning to look inevitable that the Senate will eventually accept the Camp bill.
Reid said that he planned votes on alternatives, however.
"Right now, what we're working on is how to move forward on this legislation. Democrats have a couple of amendments. It's no secret what they are. It's the Wyden amendment, the Boxer amendment and the Republicans are, as I understand it, trying to figure out what they want to do in terms of amendments," Reid said. "So, we'll see if we can come up with an agreement."
Led by Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Senate Finance Committee advanced its own extension on a bipartisan basis with a different blend of offsets but a timeline that would punt the highway bill issue into next year, like the House-passed measure.
The amendment from Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would curtail the duration of the extension in an attempt to force Congress to negotiate a broader bill during the post-election lame duck session.