by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that “clearly there’s some movement” in negotiations in Congress about a new transportation spending bill.
Asked during a news conference for an update on the bicameral negotiations, which are coming down to the wire because of a June 30 deadline for the expiration of the current funding for road and transit projects, Boehner said lawmakers were “continuing to do our work” on the highway conference.
“I met with the the Republican conferees today on the highway bill. They’ve been heavily engaged,” he said. “And clearly there’s some movement that’s been under way since the meeting I had with Sen. [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] and Sen. [Barbara] Boxer [D-Calif.].”
Boehner’s comments echoed optimistic statements from the Senate majority leader, Reid, who told reporters earlier on Thursday that the transportation negotiations were “certainly in a lot better shape than we were 24 hours ago.”
“I don’t think we’ll need an extension,” Reid said during a news conference at the Capitol. “I hope not.”
Reid said Congress reaching an agreement would be “wonderful for the country.” Boehner said Thursday that the GOP wanted a deal just as badly.
“House Republicans want to get a highway bill done,” he said. “We just want to make sure it’s a bill that includes real reforms to ensure that taxpayer funds are paying for legitimate projects that support economic activity, not planting more flowers in beautification projects around the country.”
Boehner said Republicans in the House would continue pushing for the highway bill compromise to include a mandate forcing the Obama administration to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Democrats in the Senate have staunchly opposed.
Boehner said Thursday that the Keystone provision in the highway bill was a “bipartisan job creating” initiative.
If the House and Senate do not reach an agreement on at least an extension of transportation funding by June 30, the federal government’s ability to spend money on road and transit projects will expire. Missing the deadline would also end the government’s authorization to collect the 18.4-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline that is traditionally used to fund transportation projects.