Boehner says House could take up the Senate’s highway bill

The House could take up the Senate’s version of a transportation reauthorization bill rather than try to push through one of its own, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.

Boehner has been unable to come up with a formula to pass either a long- or a short-term extension and reform of surface transportation programs, despite making the legislation a priority this year. House Republicans will meet to discuss the issue on Wednesday morning, but party leaders have yet to identify a path forward after separate proposals for a five-year, $260 billion bill and an 18-month measure met resistance from the rank and file.

The Senate is holding a key vote Tuesday on a two-year, $109 billion reauthorization. When asked if the House could simply take up that legislation, Boehner replied: “That is an option.”

He said GOP leaders were “continuing to talk to our members, trying to find common ground, in order to move our energy and infrastructure bill.”

Boehner had grand ambitions for the highway bill, hoping to create an infusion of revenue for critical infrastructure projects by using royalties from an expansion of domestic energy production. 

But the complicated measure has faced a series of setbacks, including unfavorable cost projections from the Congressional Budget Office and opposition from both conservative and centrist Republicans to various provisions.

The current authorization for the surface transportation programs expires March 31. Lawmakers and aides have said a short-term extension is increasingly possible, given the narrowing legislative window. The House is on recess next week. 

The transportation programs have been running on short-term extensions since 2009.