By Keith Laing - 06/07/12 08:17 PM EDT
Democrats in the House have pressured the GOP-led lower chamber to accept a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill that was passed earlier this year by the Senate. House GOP leaders refused, choosing instead to pass a pair of short-term extensions that would carry transportation funding through Sept. 30, leading to the ongoing conference.
Boehner had pushed for the House to approve a five-year, $260 billion transportation billion that tied infrastructure spending to increased domestic oil drilling, but he was unable to win support for the measure among his fiscally conservative caucus.
Speaking with reporters at the Capitol Thursday, Boehner said that he has a "lot of confidence" in the highway bill conference committee, but he also offered his preference for a contingency plan if they fail to reach a deal.
"If we get up to June 30th, I am not interested in some 30-day extension," he said. "Frankly, I think if we get to June 30th, it'd be a six-month extension, and move this thing out of the political realm that it appears to be in at this moment."
The chairwoman of the 47-member conference, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), responded immediately to Boehner's suggestion with criticisms that echoed Hoyer's tweets Thursday afternoon.
“I am very disappointed that Speaker Boehner is even talking about a long-term transportation extension, which would lead to the Highway Trust Fund going bankrupt, when all of our efforts must be focused on passing a transportation bill by the June 30th deadline," Boxer said in a statement released by her office. "Three million jobs and thousands of businesses are at stake.”
The House has already passed an extension of current transportation funding beyond the scheduled June 30 deadline, which would carry highway spending through Sept. 30. But in order for that measure to become law, it would have to also be approved by the Senate.