House accepts three GOP amendments to highway bill on way to passage

Another was from Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), which would allow each state to regulate and enforce its own coal combustion residuals permit program, and give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversight of any deficiencies in state regulations. While some Democrats said they opposed this amendment, it's similar to H.R. 2273, which passed last year with some Democratic support, and it was allowed to pass by voice.

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A third amendment from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) was accepted in a 255-165 vote with the support of 18 Democrats. Ribble's amendment would ease federal environmental requirements and waives them in some cases to speed up the time for highway construction.

Following these votes, the House was expected to pass the highway bill, H.R. 4348, with substantial support from Democrats. Democrats said they support it as a path toward a longer-term deal, and House Republicans promised to push for a quick conference with the Senate.

The bill extends federal highway funding through FY 2012, giving them several months to reach a deal. It also requires the approval of the Keystone oil pipeline, a provision that could face some trouble in the conference, and establishes a fund for Deepwater Horizon penalties, from which at least 80 percent would have to be used for Gulf Coast restoration.