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GOP senator predicts quick passage for long-term highway bill
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oka.) on Wednesday predicted senators would be able to quickly pass a long-term highway bill, as soon as it wraps up its work on its No Child Left Behind overhaul.
"I anticipate that we will have actually passed in the next few days ... a long-term, maybe a six-year highway reauthorization bill," said Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
He made the remarks after the House approved a five-month extension of federal transportation funding, but Senate Republicans have suggested they won't just accept the legislation.
Inhofe sought to downplay any conflict between House and Senate lawmakers over the issue, saying that "people may think there's some type of an adversarial relationship between our bill in the Senate and the House bill - there isn't."
"We'll go to conference with the House and it will be business as usual," he added. "I just want to make sure, in case there's a fire looming out there that we put it out early."
He added that based on conversations he's had with House lawmakers, he believes they'll "be very excited over there that we're going to have, and have the funding for, a six-year bill."
The Senate has been working on a six-year, $275 billion transportation funding measure, though it's unclear how that would be paid for.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) paved the way Tuesday for the proposal, setting up a procedural vote on a House-passed bill that would allow businesses to exclude some veterans from ObamaCare's employer mandate. The Senate will use the bill as its vehicle for the highway legislation.
The Republican leader told reporters Tuesday that there's "bipartisan enthusiasm" for a multi-year bill.
"We've had some conversations inside our conference about a way to pay for that, and I've also had conversations with prominent Democrats that were involved in this issue that we're hoping to be able to come together behind some way to get a multi-year highway bill," he added. "I'm fairly optimistic that we can do that."
Congress faces an end-of-month deadline to extend the Highway Trust Fund, after approving a two-month extension earlier this year.