Senate Democratic and Republican leaders this week announced agreement on a $109 billion federal highway bill, clearing the way for a vote. The Senate on Thursday, March 8, began considering amendments, and action is likely to continue into next week.
After passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) planned to send the bill to the House, where GOP leaders are working on their own five-year highway bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says he will bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote unless an agreement is reached.
The current authorization is set to expire on March 31, a date which has become the unofficial deadline for the bill, but the House bill (H.R. 7) has been difficult to finalize. The cuts to federal employee pensions, originally intended to fund the bill, were used instead to help fund the recent payroll tax cut package. A bill providing for another source of funding sought by House Republicans, new oil & gas drilling offshore and in the ANWR Wildlife Preserve, has received a threat of veto from President Obama.
More recently, the House measure was delayed again in order to shorten its length from a proposed five years to a timeline closer to that of the two-year Senate bill (S. 1813).