Boxer on Boehner's openness to passing Senate transportation bill: 'I love it'

The Senate's transportation bill would extend transportation programs for the next two years and does not include the House's controversial link of infrastructure spending and increasing domestic oil drilling. Before it was bogged down in the amendment process, the Senate transportation bill had won bipartisan support in several committees.

In a speech to members of his Republican conference Wednesday, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE warned GOP lawmakers in the House that he would bring the Senate's transportation measure up for a vote if the chamber did not pass it own legislation before a March 31 deadline for renewing the authorization to collect the federal gas tax that normally pays for transportation projects.

"You don’t like that? I don’t like it either. Why would any of us like it?” Boehner told his members Wednesday. “It means punting on the opportunity to pass an infrastructure bill that bears our stamp. It means giving up on the opportunity to make sure a bill is enacted that is responsibly paid for, that has full-scale reforms in it and, most importantly, that is linked to increased production of American energy.

“But right now, it’s the plan,” he added.

Boxer again decried the addition of amendments she said were nongermane to transportation spending that have been added to the Senate's version of the bill, but she said she was confident a deal with Republicans in the upper chamber was in the offing.

"We're offering a path forward to the Republicans," she said. "I am very optimistic they'll take it.

"I was hoping we wouldn't have to face convoluted amendments that are completely nongermane amendments, but they are insisting on them, so we'll have to deal with those," she continued. "It probably would be rolling back Clean Air Act rules ... I can't imagine why anyone would want to do that, but there are some that want to do that."

Boxer was joined at her news conference Wednesday by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who warned that the consequence of lawmakers not passing a new transportation bill would be "more gridlock, more congestion [and] more frustration with the Congress."

Villaraigosa is also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which has vocally supported the passage of a new transportation bill.

"The nation's mayors are frustrated with this Congress," he said. "They want to see Americans back to work. They want a Congress that's partnering with our cities.

"This stuff used to be bipartisan," Villaraigosa said of previous efforts to pass transportation bills. "It still is in the Senate, and we're hoping it will be in the House as well."

-Russell Berman contributed to this report.