Mica: Highway bill negotiations 'moving along'; will meet with Boxer next week

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In the interim, Mica said that members of the 47-member committee of lawmakers that have been appointed to conference on a multiyear surface transportation bill will break into "working groups" after the panel held its first meeting this week.

“They are divided by subject, and I think that is about finalized, so maybe next we will have our first meetings of the members," he said. "The staff has been doing similar work [but] we actually want members to be engaged in the process."

On one of the most controversial issues dividing the House and Senate on the transportation measure — the inclusion of a provision mandating approval of a controversial cross-country oil pipeline that has been rejected by President Obama — Mica said "great progress" was being made toward the language being included in a final bill.

“I think the Keystone pipeline is making great progress from what I have heard ... as far as its acceptance into what we may do as a final bill,” he said.

During Tuesday's opening meeting of the highway conference committee, Democrats decried the Keystone XL provision and called on Republicans to drop the language to increase the likelihood of the panel reaching a deal.

"I am honored to be a part of the conference committee, and I am hopeful that we can report out a bill that all of us can be very proud to support," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during the meeting. “In order for that to happen, we’re going to have to work in a bipartisan manner and abandon some of the poison pills that have been discussed, such as the Keystone pipeline and environmental streamlining provisions."

Republican members of the committee countered by arguing the Keystone pipeline would create jobs.

“This highway bill is touted as a jobs bill, and there is no question that Keystone would create jobs,” Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchThe FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Orrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab MORE (R-Utah) said during his opening remarks. 

For his part Thursday, Mica would not make any predictions about the final outcome of the highway conference.

“You never know in this process," Mica said. "This is all uncharted; we are going down different avenues and we have had some bumpy roads."


Ben Geman contributed to this report.