By Keith Laing - 06/13/12 05:06 PM EDT
The groups said the lawmakers were chosen because they are either freshmen lawmakers who are new to transportation negotiations, in the cases of Southerland and Lankford, or they are on appropriations committees like Ways and Means, in the cases of Camp and Tiberi.
The highway conference committee is trying to meld a two-year, $109-billion transportation bill that was approved by the Senate earlier this month with a pair of temporary extensions passed by the House before a June 30 deadline for the expiration of current highway funding.
The House had originally suggested passing a five-year, $260-billion transportation bill that tied infrastructure spending to increased domestic oil drilling, but GOP leaders were unable to find enough votes to approve the measure in the lower chamber.
Pessimism has grown around the talks as they have stretched into their fifth week, but leaders of both parties in the Senate have said this week that the conference committee has more time to reach an agreement.
"I'm not ready to do an extension yet," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday. "I don't even want to talk about it now. Senator [Barbara] Boxer [(D-Calif.)] and Senator [James] Inhofe [(R-Okla.)] have worked very hard. I think that we could surprise everybody and get a bill done here."
"We have until the end of the month and we're hoping that they're, they're going to come up with a solution here," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said separately on Tuesday.
The House has passed a subsequent extension of current transportation funding that would last until Sept. 30, but the measure would have to also be approved by the Senate before June 30 to preserve existing highway funding.