Sen. Boxer encourages House to immediately appoint highway bill negotiators

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“I have spoken to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and he has committed to appoint Senate conferees as soon as Senate rules allow," she continued. "The final bill must be truly bipartisan so it can pass both Houses of Congress. The economic recovery really depends on our bipartisan action, because the transportation and construction sectors have such a huge impact on the nation’s economy.” 

Boxer shepherded a bill through the Senate last month that would spend $109 billion on transportation projects over the next two years.

Republicans leaders in the House resisted calls from the White House and Senate Democrats to take up the two-year version of the transportation bill, arguing that they needed to pass extensions to give themselves more time to craft a version of highway bill of their own.

The GOP argued Wednesday they would use the temporary extension, which provides transportation funding, to do exactly as Boxer suggested: quickly get to conference.

"I'm hoping this will be our last extension and hopefully provide an extension to conclude this important work," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said on the floor of the House Wednesday during the highway bill debate.

"The purpose of this extension is that we can hopefully bring about resolution and conference legislation to complete our transportation bill."

Democrats in the House said they were eager to get to a transportation conference too, so much so that they were willing to accept language in the extension that was approved Wednesday that authorizes the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that was rejected by President Obama earlier this year, despite previously insisting on a "clean" highway bill.

"Taking Republicans at their word that they are serious about moving this process forward — and it appears that they are — passage of this extension of current law through the end of the fiscal year will allow us to go to conference with the other body," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

Sixty-nine Democrats joined Republicans in voting to approve the highway bill extension Wednesday. The measure was approved on a 293-127 vote.