Hoyer says House GOP to blame for stalemate over renewing highway bill

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) assailed Republicans over their negotiating position on a two-year highway bill, saying their unwillingness to compromise was hurting the economy.

“It’s not our way or the highway, it’s our way or no highway. No jobs, no progress, no consensus, no agreement,” Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing on Tuesday.

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Republicans and Democrats are now in a House-Senate conference committee over a reauthorization of surface transportation programs that currently expire on June 30. Hoyer criticized Republicans for demanding the inclusion of extraneous provisions that were included in a House bill that never passed the lower chamber.

Those measures include the relaxation of some environmental regulations and language mandating the approval of the Keystone oil sands pipeline.

“They want to demand agreement by the Senate conferees on something they can’t get through the House of Representatives,” Hoyer said. He called the highway bill an example of the GOP decision “to pursue confrontation over consensus” and said the failure to reach agreement on the legislation was one reason hiring has sputtered.

House Republicans were unable to find enough votes from conservatives and centrists to pass Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) vision for a five-year highway bill that included a number of GOP reforms. Instead, they passed short-term extensions to bring to a conference committee on a two-year bill the Senate approved with bipartisan support.

If House and Senate negotiators cannot agree on a long-term bill, an extension through the end of the year is likely.