Boehner says leaders ‘moving toward’ deal on loans, highway bill

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that congressional leaders are “moving ... towards an agreement” on a student loan fix and a highway bill, but that the legislation is not quite finished.

“We’re moving, I think, towards an agreement on a transportation bill. It would also include a one-year fix on a student loan rate increase scheduled to go into effect July 1,” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door conference meeting. “A lot of work has gone into this. It’s not finished yet.”

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Boehner’s optimistic tone matched that of Senate leaders on Tuesday, who said negotiators were closing in on an agreement to address two critical issues that face deadlines at the end of the month. It also signals that House Republicans are tentatively on board with the student loan deal that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have struck.

The Speaker touted progress on the grueling highway bill talks, saying the GOP had won “significant reforms in this bill.” They include a reduction in programs, streamlining the regulatory process and changes to a requirement that states uses federal dollars for beautification projects in addition to rebuilding critical infrastructure.

Boehner did not address the status of two Republican priorities — forcing the construction of the Keystone oil sands pipeline and measures to cut back on coal ash regulations. The conference vice chairman, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.), said after the conference meeting that Republicans were told those issues were “part of the final negotiations.”

“We haven’t heard the details,” she said. “[Boehner] just said they’re working on it and they’re close.”