With just 12 days until highway funding is due to expire, the House and Senate appear on a collision course over how to keep current and future transportation projects afloat.
The Senate on Tuesday is poised to pick up a bipartisan, multiyear bill from Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Barbara Boxer of California that would fund transportation departments for as many as six years. The policy language has cleared the Environment and Public Works and Commerce Committees, but as usual, it's the funding that remains in question, with plenty more question marks hounding the must-pass bill.
Democratic and Republican leaders are currently mining through a list of possible pay-fors provided by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch in the hopes of finding $80 billion to supplement gas-tax revenue and shore up a $275 billion, six-year bill. And from the perspective of the members, it's all-systems-go.
"I think we're going to get it passed," said Hatch, a Utah Republican. "It depends. I mean, you know, we've got to get some cooperation, but I think we've come up with the right pay-fors."
There's still plenty of room for the Senate to get hung up on the pay-for list, which has bedeviled lawmakers in the past. Even if the Senate does cobble together the money and pass a bill (which is expected to get as much as two weeks on the Senate calendar), there's still a significant roadblock in the way: a much shorter House bill.