Boehner’s effort to move House $260B transportation bill lacks support

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he plans to pass the Senate highway bill after an 11th hour effort to take up the House bill this month faltered.

“As I told the members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference Thursday.

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“In the meantime, we’re going to continue to have conversations with our members about a longer-term approach, which frankly most of our members want. But at this point in time, the plan is to bring up the Senate bill — or something like it.”

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, the Speaker made another push for a $260 billion, five-year transportation bill that had struggled to gain support in the GOP ranks. He said that unless the House acted on its own, it would have to consider a two-year, $109 billion Senate bill that appears likely to pass in the coming days.

GOP leaders spent the rest of the day talking to members to see if Boehner’s pitch had drawn enough support to bring the five-year bill to the floor. The Speaker’s comments on Thursday morning suggest it had not, at least not yet. The House goes on recess next week, and the current surface transportation programs expire March 31.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a deal on Wednesday night on amendments to be considered to the Senate bill. That agreement could clear approval of the legislation, possibly by next week. 

Republicans had hoped to pass their five-year bill before the Presidents Days recess in February, but a lack of support forced Boehner first to split the legislation into three pieces and then to delay it altogether. 

In closed-door remarks on Wednesday, Boehner told members that leaders had tried to rework the bill into 18-month and two-year proposals, but that they had yet to find the right formula. "We haven’t been able to get to 218 on any of them,” he said in the meeting.

This story was last updated at 2:28 p.m.