Boxer: Highway talks past 'organizational stage'; meeting with Mica Thursday

Earlier this year, Boxer shepherded a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill through the Senate. Her counterpart in the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) tried to do the same in lower chamber with a five-year, $260 billion version of the bill, but was ultimately unsuccessful. The House instead passed a pair of short-term extensions of current law that provides funding for road and transit projects.

Boxer said Tuesday that has had a telephone conversation with Mica and she said that the pair plans to meet face-to-face Thursday.
As for what they'll talk about, Boxer negotiators "haven't gotten down to areas of disagreement.

"What we're doing now is walking through the bill and getting the areas of agreement," she said.

On the biggest area of disagreement between the Republican-led House and the Democratically-controlled Senate, the inclusion of a provision mandating the approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Boxer suggested a deal could be reached on that to avoid a breakdown in the negotiations on transportation funding.

"We already had a vote on Keystone and we didn't get 60 votes, so we have to figure out a way to get through that hurdle, and I think that we will figure it out," she said.

Boxer would not say whether she thought members of the transportation conference from the House would be willing to drop the Keystone provision to prevent an interruption of transportation after a June 30 expiration of the last short-term expiration of current funding, but she make clear that is what she and other senators were hoping for.  

"I'm talking about the will of the Senate," she said of her comments about the votes for and against Keystone.

"I'm in a conference representing the Senate," Boxer continued. "What I've said from the start is if you load this up with controversy that can't get through either house, it's a problem. We have work together to find the sweet spot so we can get 60 votes, because if somebody doesn't like it...they can filibuster."