Sides Still Far Apart on Highway Bill

Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:47pm

In a bleak sign for the highway bill conference committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) today released a statement expressing disappointment that Senate negotiators have yet to take up House proposals.

Senate conferees, led by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), have expressed optimism a deal can get done before the June 30 deadline, when the current authorization expires.

But Mica, the top House Republican on the conference committee, indicated today that House negotiators’ positions have not been taken seriously.

“I remain hopeful that we can reach a bicameral compromise with the Senate. However, I am disappointed in the fact that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals,” he said in a statement. “In addition, the Senate leadership appears unwilling to compromise at all on the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Mica said he will speak with House conferees Thursday to discuss the status of the conference.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the conference committee, expressed pessimism that the group can strike a bipartisan deal.

He penned a letter to Illinois House Republicans urging them to pressure Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) into bringing up a vote on the version of the transportation bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate.

“It is increasingly clear that the only way to complete a multi-year transportation bill is to bring the bipartisan Senate measure up for a vote in the House of Representatives,” Durbin said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the House Republican Speaker is dragging his feet on completing work on the House-Senate transportation conference committee, and instead has publicly called for a six-month extension, the 10th such extension which would all but devastate construction this year.”

Boehner said last week that if conferees do not strike a deal by month’s end, he would rather punt the transportation bill into the lame-duck session with a six-month extension than pass a short-term extension.