Reid says Senate has deal on amendments to $109B highway bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Wednesday night said that the Senate has reached an agreement on how to move ahead with a long-stalled transportation authorization bill.

Reid took to the Senate floor shortly before 10:30 p.m. to announce that Republicans and Democrats agreed to allow votes on up to 30 amendments to the bill. That's a far cry from Reid's earlier attempt to approve the bill without any further consideration.

Nonetheless, Reid welcomed the agreement and said he hoped the Senate could finish the bill by Thursday.

"We've reached agreement… on the surface transportation bill," Reid said. "Under the order we just entered, we can finish this tomorrow.

ADVERTISEMENT
"It's a huge job. We have 30 amendments we have to dispose of. So there is no question that senators should expect a number of votes tomorrow."

Despite Reid's optimism, the Senate is expected to take up to ten amendment votes Thursday, and leave the rest for next week.

Among the amendments that will get a vote are ones from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to extend oil and gas drilling permits in the Outer Continental Shelf, one from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to eliminate duplicative federal programs and one from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to reduce the 2013 discretionary spending cap. Another amendment authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline is also up for a vote.

The Keystone amendment, as well as the proposals from Vitter, Coburn and some others, will require a 60-vote threshold, making them unlikely to pass.

The Senate bill authorizes transportation spending for two years, and would spend about $109 billion. The Senate returns at 9:30 a.m. and plans to take up the bill after an hour of morning debate.

— This story was updated at 11:14 p.m.