Senate votes to proceed with highway bill

Greg Nash
A six-year highway bill overcame its first hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday, a day after Democrats blocked the proposal because they wanted more time to read it. 
Senators voted 62-36 on ending debate on a motion to proceed to a House-passed bill that the Senate is using as its vehicle for the infrastructure legislation. 
The late vote came after a quiet day on the Senate floor, as Democrats huddled to discuss the six-year bill rolled out by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
{mosads}Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), when asked late Wednesday afternoon whether the bill would be able to overcome the procedural hurdle, said that “it’s too early to make that statement.” 
It was a shift from Tuesday, when Durbin told reporters that Democrats would likely only need a day to review the legislation, before being ready to move forward. 
He added Wednesday that “there are parts of it that I don’t like at all, but that’s the nature of a compromise.” 
Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday morning that there were “significant issues” with the highway bill. 
“I’ve already been alerted by my staff, and some of the pay-fors are somewhat questionable,” the Democratic leader added. 
But Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) tried to persuade his colleagues ahead of the vote. He took to the Senate floor to highlight bridges that needed to be repaired and could benefit from federal infrastructure funding. 
He also sought to downplay Tuesday’s legislative stumble. 
“I don’t criticize Democrats that voted against the motion to proceed yesterday,” Inhofe said, adding that Republicans “dropped the ball” by not releasing the details of the bill early enough. 
Despite being allowed to move forward Wednesday, the highway bill still faces hurdles from a handful of lawmakers who want to attach controversial provisions that would likely threaten bipartisan support. 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is running for the White House in 2016, is expected to try to tie the controversial Iran deal to the bill, in an effort to block President Obama from lifting some sanctions. 
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is also running for president, is expected to offer an amendment seeking to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of two controversial videos that have caused a political firestorm. 
Supporters of the Export-Import Bank are also expected to try to use the vehicle to reauthorize the bank’s charter, something House Republican leadership strongly opposes. 
Lawmakers are under a tight end-of-the-month deadline to finish their work on highway bill, and McConnell is warning that senators should expect to work a rare weekend session.  
“We’re still determined to get this to the House in a timely manner,” he said. “We expect to work through Saturday to ensure that we do.” 
Cruz, Paul and fellow GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), another 2016 hopeful, bucked McConnell and voted “no” on moving forward with the legislation. 
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