Senate Highway Bill Hits Another Speed Bump

Posted March 6, 2012 at 12:29pm

Senate Republicans blocked the chamber from bringing debate on a highway bill to a close today, calling into question whether the Senate can pass the $109 billion measure that would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs for two years.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sought to bring debate to a close on a new version of the transportation package, which includes 37 germane, noncontroversial amendments that he said were agreed to by both sides.

But Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to beat back a filibuster, with a mostly party-line vote of 52-44.

Before the vote, Reid appeared to know the outcome when he said, “It seems more likely that my Republican colleagues will continue to take orders from the tea party and filibuster this jobs measure.”

The failure of the cloture vote could complicate passage of the measure, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the failure of the vote would help bring debate on the measure to conclusion.

“I think a ‘no’ vote on cloture is not the end of this bill but the beginning, and it gives us an opportunity to go on and wrap up discussions that have gone on entirely too long, it seems to me,” McConnell said. “And I know the Majority Leader’s been frustrated by it and so have I, but we’re very close to getting an agreement on a list of amendments and should be able to finish this bill by the end of the week.”

McConnell sought to offer a unanimous consent agreement with a list of more than 30 amendments. A frustrated Reid objected and said he would study the proposal.

“I don’t know why everything we do has to be a fight,” Reid said. “We’ve at least got something … in writing. I appreciate that and I’ll take a look at it.”