Boehner’s Highway Bill on Life Support

Posted March 8, 2012 at 2:48pm

Speaker John Boehner’s once lofty hopes of fundamentally reforming how the nation funds transportation infrastructure projects are all but officially dead, with the House expected to take up the Senate’s version of highway legislation later this month.

Although the Ohio Republican has not formally conceded defeat — and his office went to great lengths today to point out that he is continuing to talk with Members about pursuing a House version of the legislation — the handwriting seemed to be on the wall.

“Yeah, that’s what’s going to happen,” a GOP leadership aide conceded when asked if the House would be forced to take up the Senate’s bill.

On Wednesday, Boehner warned his Members they would need to accept some version of his original five-year spending plan or an 18-month version, a hybrid version of the five-year bill that had recently been floated or face being forced to pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill.

Today Boehner repeated that reality.

“As I told the Members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up. Now in the meantime, we’re going to continue to have conversations with Members about a longer-term approach, which frankly most of our Members want. But at this point in time, the plan is to bring up the Senate bill or something like it,” Boehner told reporters.

But privately, Republican Members have for days said that the original five-year Boehner bill and a scaled back 18-month version were dead in the water thanks to opposition from conservatives and rank-and-file Republicans concerned with parochial problems with both bills.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed Boehner, chiding Republicans for moving a package of jobs measures that had largely already been agreed to because of the highway bill’s collapse.

“Instead of working together on a transportation bill, which is one of the biggest jobs initiatives Congress [has], Republicans are once again bringing to the floor some bills that we passed on the floor overwhelmingly,” Pelosi told reporters.

After hitting some snags, the Senate appears on course to pass its two-year surface transportation bill early next week.