Senate Highway Bill Roundup: House GOP at the Crossroads

As the House returns to session on Monday, Speaker Boehner has two options: bring up the bipartisan Senate highway bill which passed with a bipartisan vote of 74-22, or keep trying to cobble together a partisan bill that’s not popular even in his own party.  In case you missed them, here are some stories highlighting the difficult road ahead for divided House Republicans as the Senate’s highway bill arrives with strong support from their colleagues in that chamber: 

From the Washington Post:  “The bipartisan bill was approved 17 days before current transportation funding and authority to collect the federal gas tax that support it are due to expire.  After efforts to move a House transportation bill stalled last week, the Senate bill might hold the only chance that legislation reaches the White House before the deadline.  It won broad support, passing on a vote of 74 to 22.  ‘On March 31, if we don’t act on this transportation bill, everything will come to a screeching halt,’ said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). ‘We are very close to the day when everything will stop.’

From the New York Times:  “The Senate easily approved a two-year, $109 billion transportation and infrastructure bill on Wednesday, putting pressure on House Republicans to set aside their stalled version and pass the Senate’s before the federal highway trust fund expires at the end of the month.  …[Jeff Shoaf, head of Congressional relations for the Associated General Contractors of America] said the legislation would spur hiring in the construction industry, where unemployment hit 17.1 percent in February. With infrastructure spending stable for two years, construction firms should begin buying equipment and hiring permanent workers, he said.”

From the Huffington Post:  “Inhofe returned the compliment. ‘Yes, she and I are probably at the opposite extremes,’ Inhofe said. But, he added, ‘I've always said that conservatives should be big in two areas: national defense and infrastructure.’” The Senate bill was one of few pieces of major legislation in recent memory to secure broad bipartisan support. The current transportation bill expires on March 31, which means that Congressional leaders are racing against time to get a new bill passed and prevent thousand of construction jobs from being put on hold.”

From Politico:  “House Speaker John Boehner stands at a difficult crossroad. He has to do something about the transportation bill before the end of March, and the current menu of options laid out before him stink.… Even some Senate Republicans acknowledged that a two-year bill might be an easier lift for the House. ‘Obviously, we’d like to do more, and everybody understands the fiscal restraints that exist,’ said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). ‘I think for the House leadership, for example that [a two-year bill] might be preferable to their original approach.’”

The clock is ticking.