Senate leaders have offered a surface transportation bill compromise to House Republicans but Sen. Barbara Boxer is keeping quiet on the specifics, as the expiration of a federal highway funding extension nears.
Boxer, D-Calif., along with Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., delivered the proposal compiled from the Senate committees of Commerce, Environment and Public Works, and Banking on Tuesday to her House counterpart, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. Boxer said the reception from conferees was “positive,” and she downplayed reports that negotiations had stalled.
Boxer, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wants both chambers to pass a final bill by Friday, allowing President Obama to sign it before the funding extension ends June 30.
Her statements come as it becomes increasingly clear that the House and Senate are still far off from coming to an agreement. After weeks of positive talk, the merging of the Senate’s bipartisan two-year, $109 billion bill and the House’s five-year, $260 billion proposal has devolved again into a blame game.
House Republicans argue they feel out of the conference loop and fear language to speed up highway projects delivery isn’t being considered, according to Politico. House Democrats counter that their fellow Republican colleagues aren’t willing to budge and are taking an “our way or the highway” approach, according to The Hill.
In addition, a House push to instruct conferees to spend no more than $37.5 billion on transportation in fiscal 2013, which is $17 million less than the current Senate proposal, suggests the chamber still faces disagreement over maintaing spending levels from within. The debate over whether to include approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and easing of environmental regulations also appears to be preventing the chambers from coming to an accord.