As the House begins a one week recess, it appears that negotiations on the transportation reauthorization legislation are stalling, with few signs that House and Senate conferees will be able to negotiate a bicameral agreement this year. Last week, Senate Conference Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a proposal to House negotiators that incorporated some House Republican ideas. However, it remains to be seen whether it included enough to satisfy House conferees. Moreover, some of the most contentious issues like including construction of the Keystone XL pipeline remain unsettled.
With expiration of the current highway bill extension approaching on June 30, many transportation stakeholders believe an agreement is becoming unlikely. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week he prefers a six-month extension of federal surface transportation funding if the conference fails to reach an agreement. While an extension of this time frame pushes debate past the November elections, it is problematic because at that time the Highway Trust Fund will be on the brink of insolvency and in need of a general fund bailout. Sen. Boxer expressed disappointment on comments of another long-term extension, saying all efforts should be focused on passing a transportation bill by the June 30th deadline.
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