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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer today passionately argued that Republicans are to blame for gridlock in Congress, pointing to GOP demands on the transportation reauthorization bill as a case in point.

Holding up a copy of today’s issue of Roll Call with the headline “Crucial Week for Highway Bill,” the Maryland Democrat then urged reporters to read a CQ Today article with remarks from House Republican negotiators regarding the highway bill conference report.

Specifically, Hoyer quoted Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Bill Shuster, “whose father pursued bipartisan agreement on the highway bill on a regular basis, with whom I served,” Hoyer said. The younger Shuster offered a tough public stance on the negotiations, saying, “It’s not an option for us to give away the House position.”

Hoyer, pounding the table for emphasis, noted that House Republicans had been unable to secure enough support within the GOP Conference to bring their bill to the floor.

“They want to demand an agreement from the Senate conferees on something they can’t get through the House of Representatives,” Hoyer said.

Both parties have begun digging in, with Democrats insisting on the Senate’s bipartisan bill and many Republicans holding the line at the unpassed House bill, insisting that it be the basis for a conference report. Both positions, at least for now, appear to be negotiating tactics.

Hoyer’s remarks come as the prospects of passing a long-term extension to federal highway and transit programs before the end of the month evaporate and House and Senate negotiators face a make-or-break week if they want to get a bill done.

Democratic and Republican aides in both chambers privately acknowledge that with negotiations stalled — and the House out of session next week — getting a bill done before the programs expire at the end of the month is increasingly unrealistic.

Democrats have begun to focus on the bill in their remarks on the economy, especially after a dismal jobs report was released Friday.

“It’s not ‘our way or the highway,’ it’s ‘our way or no highway.’ No jobs. No progress. No consensus. No agreement,” Hoyer said. “So what the Republican hardliners are doing, are saying, [is], ‘We won’t agree in conference, we won’t come to agreement, we won’t help create jobs in America … unless we get our way.’”

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