Afternoon Roundup: GOP "Punts" Edition

A look at today’s headlines shows that Republicans are deeply divided and scrambling to find support for Speaker Boehner’s partisan highway bill. Instead of following the Senate’s lead and working with Democrats on a bipartisan path forward, Republican leadership insists on moving forward with a partisan bill that lacks support among their own Members – forcing Speaker Boehner to “punt” on the bill and throwing the process into disarray:

Politico: Boehner punts highway bill

“The House will not wrap up the controversial highway and energy bill until after the President’s Day recess, Speaker John Boehner told Republicans at a closed-door conference Wednesday morning.”

Left unsaid in Boehner’s rationale is the difficulty that Republican leaders have had in assembling the necessary vote for a bill that funds surface transportation programs, opens up oil drilling and cuts back on the federal contribution to government workers’ pensions.”

Roll Call: Lacking Support, Boehner Plans Long Debate on Highway Bill

“With the prospects of a grand bargain on transportation and energy legislation dashed and his bill broken into pieces, Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday told his colleagues the House debate on highway spending would extend beyond next week’s recess as leaders struggle to shore up support.”

“Boehner also tacitly acknowledged the deep opposition within his own conference to the bill.”

“The strategy comes at significant peril for Boehner, who has thrown much of his political capital behind the package. Lawmakers are traditionally loath to leave bills ‘hanging’ over a recess because it allows opponents to marshal their forces and build pressure on fence-sitting Members to oppose them.”

“In fact, the bill has already drawn significant opposition and interest groups have already begun running ads against Boehner’s bill. For instance, Taxpayers for Common Sense on Tuesday launched radio ads against 12 GOP House Members, including Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Steve King (Iowa) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.).”

“On Tuesday, Boehner announced he would break his signature transportation and energy bill into three parts in the hopes of salvaging at least the energy portion. The larger bill was intended to be the Ohio Republican’s most substantial mark on policy, fundamentally reforming how the government funds highway and mass transit projects. But facing a revolt from both conservatives and rank-and-file Members with parochial concerns, Boehner abandoned that plan.”

The Hill: Boehner delays highway bill vote

“Speaker John Boehner is delaying a vote on the $260 billion transportation bill that was scheduled this week.”

“Boehner faced a tough vote this week even after breaking the measure into three pieces for a series of House votes intended to ease passage.”

“Democrats have called on Boehner to scrap the entire transportation bill, which has come under fire from the right for spending more than revenue that the federal gas tax brings in and the left for cutting funding for public transit, pedestrian and bicyclist projects. The Speaker could count on few Democratic votes in the House, and President Obama threatened to veto the bill if it passes.”

“‘They said the whip card came back a little worse than the debt-ceiling whip count, which wasn't very pretty way back when,’ said Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), a critic of the bill.”

Critics of the GOP transportation bill in the House had pointed to the Senate's shorter, less controversial measure as an alternative. It received 85 votes in a floor vote to end debate last week.”

CQ: House to Delay Vote on Highway Bill Until After Recess

“The House is likely to push its timetable for completing the surface transportation bill until after next week’s recess, in the face of objections to several provisions and a deluge of amendments to be considered.”

“The Ohio Republican had previously vowed to finish the bill before the Presidents Day recess.”