The week ahead: Decision time nears on highway spending bill

Lawmakers claimed there had been a lot of progress made on the bill in the days leading up to the last-minute staff negotiations after a late intervention last week from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Issues like the House's push to include a mandate forcing the Obama administration to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline remain outstanding, but leaders in both parties said the bicameral talks were going better than they were at the beginning of last week.    

"I don't think we'll need an extension. I hope not," Reid said during a news conference at the Capitol. "I can't guarantee anyone here we're going to get a highway bill, but we're certainly in a lot better shape than we were 24 hours ago."

"I met with the the Republican conferees [Thursday] on the highway bill. They've been heavily engaged. And clearly there's some movement that's been under way since the meeting I had with Sen. Reid and Sen. [Barbara] Boxer [D-Calif.]," Boehner said in a press conference of his own.

If lawmakers do not at least pass an extension by June 30, the federal government's ability to spend money on transportation projects will expire. The transportation legislation also contains the government's authorization to collect the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that is traditionally used to fund road and transit projects.