Two top senators tried to jump-start the stalled federal highway bill Tuesday by personally delivering a proposal to their House counterparts, an unusual move that came amid reports that the legislation will screech to a halt in the House.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who delivered the bill with her counterpart James Inhofe (R-Okla.), expressed confidence about the coming passage of legislation. "They received us warmly," Boxer said.
However, just hours before, Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sounded the alarm that "hard-line Republicans" could prevent the bill from passing in the House. He blamed these legislators for partisan gridlock in the Capitol, which he said is hurting efforts to create jobs.
Historically, federal transportation bills have been a bipartisan effort, Hoyer said, but in the hyperpartisan culture that pervades the Capitol these days, passing a long-term bill to fund transportation -- which would include a fight over where the funds will come from -- is no sure thing.
Hoyer stressed that House Republicans are stubbornly insisting on provisions that are not germane to transportation in the bill, including politically divisive items like one to fast-track the Keystone pipeline.
GOP Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told reporters that the big issue regarding the highway bill in the House is how to "pay for it." In addition to the Keystone pipeline, another provision would give states the power to regulate coal ash from power plants as if it were municipal garbage.
"I think if we can get together on all of these things, we can get a bill," Hoeven said. "If we can't, then I think we end up with an extension. It's challenging, sure it is."