POLITICS -- March 14, 2012 at 1:31 PM EDT
Senate Passes Transportation Bill
Updated 4:44 p.m. | The Senate passed a $109 billion, two-year surface transportation reauthorization Wednesday afternoon that Democrats say will save 2.8 million jobs. Senators rejected most amendments, but the measure does include proposals related to BUY AMERICA requirements, bridges and farm vehicles. The bipartisan vote was 74-22.
It is one of the few times in this election year that Republicans and Democrats have worked together to craft legislation.
The action now moves to the House, but Roll Call is reporting that the House could now delay action on the highway bill and pursue other things before acting on the measure. House Speaker John Boehner told his GOP conference before the House left town for a week-long recess that he would call up the Senate version or something like it for a floor vote if his members cannot agree to an alternative.
After the Senate vote, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement:
We are pleased that Senators have continued the tradition of working across the aisle to pass a bill that keeps Americans at work maintaining our nation's vital infrastructure and provides states and localities the certainty they need to plan ahead. We are hopeful that the House will move swiftly and in similarly bipartisan fashion to do the same.
Roll Call quoted GOP aides who say that ongoing rifts within the Republican conference continue to make the path forward unclear. GOP leaders, aides say, want to tackle health care and budget legislation first, which could push action on a long-term transportation bill to sometime next month. That would mean Congress will probably have to pass a short-term extension first. That was something both leaders in both parties and both chambers have said publicly they did not want to do.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also announced that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached agreements to vote to confirm a number of judicial nominees (though he offered few details) and schedule a vote on the House-passed small business package.
Funding for the legislation expires March 31. The House returns to Capitol Hill next week.