The Senate could pass a transportation bill quickly whenever Senate leaders agree to a package of amendments for debate, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
“If we get an agreement today, we can get a bill in five working days,” she told reporters. Boxer is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and principal sponsor of a two-year $109 billion transportation infrastructure plan that has received bipartisan support in the Senate.
It is up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to come up with the amendments. Some aren’t related to transportation, such as a Republican proposal to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing a rule that would clamp down on mercury and other heavy-metal air emissions from industrial boilers and incinerators. Boxer called it one of the most controversial amendments.
Surface transportation funding is operating on its eighth extension since the last law expired in 2009. Barring a highly unlikely Senate-House agreement over the next three weeks — if either can even get its own bill out, of course — a ninth extension should follow when the current extension expires on March 31.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was pressuring fellow Republicans to get moving on a transportation bill after progress ground to a halt last week. Conservatives rejected a five-year, $260 billion measure sponsored by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica, R-Fla., and later turned down an 18-month substitute.
“Inaction is always the easier path. It’s the path the Democratic-controlled Senate has chosen on most issues of consequence,” Politico, a Capitol Hill publication, quoted Boehner as saying. “But on highways, even the Senate — the do-nothing Democratic Senate — is going to pass something.”
Boehner said late Tuesday that taking up the Senate bill in the absence of a House version, was an option to be considered.