Courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority
Hurdles remain, but negotiators think a transportation bill is still possible.
Time is running out for Congress to pass a multi-year transportation bill. The current extension, the 9th,runs out at the end of June. Congressional leaders want the bill done by the end of this week. But good intentions may not be enough to unstick negotiations.
Staff and lawmakers from the House and Senate have been trying for six weeks to hash out differences in a multi-year transportation bill. John Mica of Florida, the lead Republican negotiator for the House, accuses Democrats of not compromising. "There are major policy issues," he says, "and there hasn’t been enough movement to satisfy my side of the aisle."
Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, says the sticking points are House Republican proposals to OK the Keystone Pipeline and allow states to regulate coal ash.
Neither, he says, belongs in a transportation bill. Waxman says the Democrats’ top negotiator, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, still believes a deal can get done. In a meeting with Democrats, he says Boxer told them, "if the Republicans wanted to work out the differences on the transportation bill and get it passed, it could be worked out within 24 hours."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce told Congress in a letter that failure means job loss and a squandered opportunity to grow the economy.
After an early evening meeting called by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Speaker John Boehner's office, Senator Boxer said she's asked Chairman Mica to meet "continually" over the next several days to make the weekend deadline.