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Harry Reid Tries to Jump-Start Highway Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today moved to cut off debate on a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill in an effort to jump-start action on the measure, which has been on the floor since early February.

“It’s with disappointment that I am going to file cloture on this transportation [bill],” Reid said this morning. He added that the measure would save or create almost 3 million jobs. A motion to invoke cloture, or limit debate, requires 60 votes to prevail.

The vote is expected Tuesday morning.

The package the Senate will vote on includes parts under the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works, Banking, Finance and Commerce committees. Before filing cloture, Reid added 37 germane, noncontroversial amendments that he said were agreed to by both sides.

Reid said Republicans have filed more than 100 amendments to the bill and that most are not related to transportation issues, which he argues has forced his hand to seek to bring debate to a close.

“My Republican colleagues have caused the waste of about a month of precious time here on the Senate floor in obstructing this very important piece of legislation,” Reid said.

The delay stems from the GOP seeking to “waste time on unrelated, ideological, nongermane, nonrelevant amendments instead of talking about the nation’s failing infrastructure,” Reid continued.

Reid said today that Senate Democratic and Republican leaders continued to work on building a list of amendments that would be voted on before final passage.

Potential amendments include a proposal to green-light the Keystone XL oil pipeline and another to delay and alter boiler pollution regulations.

Reid’s move comes after the Senate voted, 51-48, to kill a GOP amendment that would have allowed companies and insurance providers to opt out of mandated birth control coverage for religious reasons.

Senate Democrats agreed to hold a vote on the amendment despite complaints that it was not related to the underlying transportation bill. But they charged that the proposal is far-reaching and would result in women losing access to a vital health care service.

Reid said he had hoped that by getting the amendment out of the way, Democrats and Republicans would be able to quickly come to an agreement on a list of amendments and finish the transportation measure as soon as possible. But he said he needed to file cloture to ensure the bill can move forward.

Democrats control 53 votes in the Senate and would need seven Republicans to vote with them to overcome a filibuster Tuesday.

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