The week ahead: Highway bill in danger of hitting a dead end

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The leaders of the 47-member conference committee spent last week trading barbs with one another.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the transportation conference committee, said the House lacked "leadership" in the highway talks. Her counterpart from the House, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), countered that the Senate was "unwilling to compromise at all” on House preferences such as mandating the approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The escalating rhetoric caused some observers to wonder if even bumping the negotiations up to the leaders of the respective chambers, as is tradition in typical House-Senate negotiations, would be enough to save the highway bill talks from reaching a dead end.

Elsewhere, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for interim Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta on Wednesday. Huerta assumed the helm of the agency in last December following the drunken-driving arrest and resignation of Obama's first aviation chief, Randy Babbitt.

The charges against Babbitt were later dropped, but Obama appointed Huerta to a full five-year term in March after tapping him to finish Babbitt's term.

In the House, the Homeland Security Committee's subcommittee on Transportation Security will examine Tuesday the Transportation Security Administration's plans for a new boarding pass scanning system. TSA officials say the system will make detecting fake boarding passes easier, but the subcommittee plans to examine whether it is a "wise use of taxpayers' dollars."