By Keith Laing
A 47-member conference committee has been trying for a month to find a compromise between the House and Senate on a bill that would provide transportation funding for at least the next 18 months. But it has appeared in recent weeks that the panel heading toward a stalemate.
The panel is trying to meld a two-year, $109 billion transportation that was approved by the Senate earlier this month with a pair of temporary extensions passed by the House.
The House had originally suggested passing a five-year, $260 billion transportation that tied infrastructure spending to increased domestic oil drilling, but GOP leaders were unable to find enough votes to approve the measure in the lower chamber.
Leaders of both parties in the Senate argued Tuesday that the conference committee has more time to find a way to reach an agreement.
"I'm not ready to do an extension yet," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday. "I don't even want to talk about it now. Senator [Barbara] Boxer [(D-Calif.)] and Senator [James] Inhofe [(R-Okla.)] have worked very hard. I think that we could surprise everybody and get a bill done here."
"We're still hoping to get the highway bill conference to come up with a recommendation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said separately on Tuesday. "And unless something has happened this morning that I haven't heard about, I don't know what that's going to be yet. We have until the end of the month and we're hoping that they're — they're going to come up with a solution here."