Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday urged the House to pass a surface transportation bill that has bipartisan support, so that controversial items, such as expanded domestic energy production, don’t prevent the bill from passage this year.
The bipartisan Senate plan and House Republican’s plan, which will be introduced Tuesday, vary widely, spurring Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to doubt whether an agreement could be struck in 2012. Boxer said LaHood is more optimistic about the Congress passing a transport plan since the Washington Post quoted him earlier this week.
“He feels he was not quoted correctly,” Boxer said. “He’s concerned about the House approach, and he’s very supportive of the bipartisan approach of the Senate. Of course he remains concerned that the two bodies have different approaches.
Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said two committees will act next week on the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) that her committee unanimously approved in November. The Senate Banking Committee will mark up a portion of the bill for mass transit, and the Finance Committee must approve $12 billion over two years to fully fund the two-year $109 billion measure.
“What we did in the Senate was a model of bipartisanship,” Boxer, D-Calif., said. “I would urge the House to do what we did: reach out to the Democrats, have a bipartisan bill. If you load this bill with very controversial items, it takes us back to the debates and arguments rather than the progress the American public expect of us.”
MAP-21 would provide $1 billion for the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act loan program, an eightfold increase over current levels. Boxer said the multiplier effect of the money would result in 2.8 million jobs.
House staff members on Thursday told stakeholders that a House transportation bill will go before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 2. There are few details, but it is expected to be a five-year, $240 billion measure.