Senate plans swift action on long-delayed transportation bill

Senate Democrats expect to pass a long-delayed surface transportation bill soon after they return to Washington next month.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said her colleagues have identified a list of offsets that could be used cover the final $12 billion of the bill’s cost.

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Shortly before Congress left town for the holidays, Boxer told The Hill that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had put together a variety of proposals to push the legislation over the finish line. 

“There’s good progress going on,” she said. “He’s got a list of pay-fors but I’m not going to say what they are.” 

Senators had hoped to pass the $112 billion highway bill before the end of the year but were held up by uncertainty over the final offsets.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week the legislation would be among his first priorities in 2012. 

Reid said the transportation bill and the Federal Aviation Administration bill “are paramount in my mind.”

“Very conservative [Sen.] Jim Inhofe [R-Okla.], quite progressive Barbara Boxer have come up with an arrangement to extend this for two years,” Reid said. “A very, very good bill.”

Boxer said she expected Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), chairman of the Banking Committee, to mark up the transit portions of her bill very soon.

Johnson had planned to take up the bill in his committee earlier this month but postponed action.