By The Hill Editors - 02/07/12 12:59 AM EST
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) is working extremely hard to pass his transportation bill through the House this month.
It won’t be easy.
The legislation would authorize new domestic drilling for oil and gas to pay for highway, rails and bridges.
This measure, which is scheduled to be on the House floor next week, is a top election-year priority for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Boehner has hailed it as a massive jobs bill and strongly made the case to his GOP colleagues that it should be approved. The Speaker claims the legislation is a clear indication that House Republicans are changing Washington because it does not include any earmarks, a staple of prior highway bills.
Mica is also making the case to his colleagues and the public, appearing Monday morning on the Fox News Channel to tout his bill.
Unless he is granted a waiver, Mica is in his last year as the top-ranking Republican on the Transportation Committee. Getting a highway bill passed is a huge goal for the Florida Republican, who has scoffed at rumors of his retirement (“absolutely not,” he recently told The Hill).
Boehner and Mica face huge obstacles. The energy provisions in the bill are strongly opposed by most Democrats, so House Republicans are going to have to pass it by themselves, more or less.
Meanwhile, conservative-leaning groups, including the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation, are ripping it. They argue the massive bill does nothing to reduce spending.
Boehner has said this will be the first highway bill he has ever voted for and told his GOP colleagues that fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is their governing responsibility.
If Republicans can pass the highway legislation through the House, it will give them a major leverage boost with the Democratic majority in the Senate. It could also help the House GOP’s argument that they are more focused on jobs than are Democrats.
Failing to pass the bill, however, would be a political disaster for both Mica and Boehner.