The week ahead: Highway bill talks enter week five

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But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised the possibility last week of an extension that would only last six months, leading transportation industry observers to worry that the conference committee's negotiations will end up at a dead end.

A back-and-forth between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has added to the pessimism. Reid accused Cantor last week of trying to sabotage the U.S. economy by stalling the highway talks. A spokesman for Boehner responded by calling the accusation "bulls--t."

Against that backdrop, the House will likely counter the Senate's draft of a possible conference committee report this week. Conference Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said last week that the Senate's initial proposal did not include House priorities like the authorization of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, but she said the offer "reflects a lot of their proposals."

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said last week that the lower chamber would counter the Senate's proposal in a "sequential manner," though he noted the House will be not be in session this week.