Senate leaders praise Speaker’s decision

Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday praised House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer top Treasury official to head private equity group GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats Zeal, this time from the center MORE’s (R-Ohio) decision to take up the Senate transportation bill or a similar measure.

They said BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer top Treasury official to head private equity group GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats Zeal, this time from the center MORE had limited options and warned that if he insisted on a partisan House transportation package it would have led to a political defeat similar to GOP capitulation on a payroll tax package in December.

“That’s a significant step forward,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) told reporters.

“Passing a similar bill is pleasing to my ears, and they should forget about the job-destroying, destructive bill Chairman [John] Mica is trying to marshal through that body,” he added in reference to the Florida Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Senate Democratic leaders believe they have the upper hand in negotiations with the House because the Senate transportation bill has strong bipartisan support.

The Senate voted 85-11 to proceed to the transportation bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.), one of the Senate’s most liberal members, and Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? Inhofe: Pruitt got 'wake-up call' after showing 'questionable judgment' GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border MORE (R-Okla.), one of the chamber’s most outspoken conservatives.

“The question is will the Speaker choose partisan gridlock over bipartisan cooperation,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMontana's environmental lobby teams with governor to kill 600 jobs Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points Democrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader.

Boehner said Thursday that “as I told the members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up.”

Schumer said the Senate will pass the two-year package by Tuesday and predicted it would create close to 3 million jobs.

“In an election year like this one, the bipartisan Senate agreement is a rare accomplishment,” Schumer said. “After the Senate passes the bill on Tuesday, all eyes will turn to the House. The question will be, ‘What will Boehner do?’”

Schumer warned Boehner not to take a hard-line partisan stance in talks over the transportation bill.

“The Speaker should remember the lesson of the payroll tax cut debate and not repeat his mistake,” Schumer said. “Whenever he lets a small group on the hard right dictate what he should do, he loses and America loses and bipartisanship loses. We hope he’s learned that lesson.”

Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Charles Krauthammer dies at the age of 68 Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos MORE (Ky.) have an agreement to begin voting on 30 amendments to the transportation bill Thursday afternoon.

Senators expect to vote on final passage next week. The House is on recess next week and will return March 19.