Facing shaky support for his surface transportation bill, House Speaker John Boehner said he will delay the vote on the $260 billion, five-year package until after President’s Day's recess, according to published reports.
The Ohio Republican’s decision to stall the vote comes after he signalled his plan to break the transport bill into three parts to allow members to vote separately high package. The break is to allow members who oppose the revenue portions, including proposals to expand domestic energy production and raise federal workers’ pension contributions, to vote against them without shooting down the main transportation bill.
The energy portion of the bill, that would dedicate revenue from new oil and gas production to the Highway Trust Fund is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
"If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that's perfectly fine with me. It's more important that we do it right than that we do it fast,” Boehner told members Wednesday morning.
Boehner’s office said the vote was delayed because the reduction in pension benefits, part of the payroll tax cut agreement, overlaps with a cost offset in the highway bill, according to Politico. A heavy docket of amendments for the surface bill also makes it harder to complete the bill this week, Boehner’s office said.
However, Democrats say he doesn’t have the votes within his own party to pass it. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that Republicans’ “reckless attempt to jam through a partisan surface transportation bill that will never see the light of day has just backfired.”
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., noted the difficulty of winning support for the bill without earmarks. The last multi-year bill that Congress passed included more than 6,300 of them, and hen Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they banned earmarks.