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John Boehner May Scale Back Highway, Energy Bill

Facing increasing opposition from within his own party, Speaker John Boehner may scrap his ambitious five-year highway and energy package in favor of a shorter and more palatable measure.

A spokesman for the Ohio Republican acknowledged today that changes were being considered and sought to lay the blame on Senate Democrats.

“Given Senate Democrats’ unwillingness to pursue a longer-term infrastructure and energy plan, House Republican leaders are considering a revamped approach,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

But Republicans privately acknowledged the problems with the bill lie not only in the House, where the transportation portion was expected to fail, but also within Boehner’s own conference.

According to a GOP aide, Boehner is considering shortening the bill to two years and scrapping a plan to separate transit and highway funding, a plan that led to a moderate revolt within his conference. The retooled bill could also include new cuts to spending as a potential fig leaf to conservatives within the party.

The turmoil is the latest in a series of embarrassing unforced errors for Boehner on the transportation bill.

Although the bill was intended to be his signature legislative policy proposal, Boehner has struggled to pull together enough GOP votes to pass it. He was first forced to break the comprehensive package into separate energy, funding and transportation bills last week. But as opposition to the transportation portion continued to build, he was then forced to delay a vote on it until next week.

Although it is unclear what effect the latest tinkering will have on the schedule, it appears likely the bill could be delayed for at least another week while changes are made.

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