Senate to tackle highway bill amendments, House struggles

Thu Mar 8, 2012 12:39am EST
 
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate leaders struck a deal on Wednesday to move forward on stalled transportation legislation that now will include votes on a string of amendments, some controversial and unrelated to highway and transit construction.

Majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said the chamber would begin slogging through 30 amendments on Thursday, and could wrap up work on the $109 billion proposal later in the day.

"We have a huge job," Reid said after announcing that he and his Republican counterparts had agreed on a list of amendments that include votes on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline and a proposal to expand off-shore oil and gas drilling.

Other amendments include a proposal targeting off-shore tax havens, a repeal of certain energy tax subsidies, and a plan to relax clean air standards for industrial boilers.

The more controversial amendments would require support from 60 senators, or nearly two thirds of the chamber, making approval difficult.

Transportation legislation is a priority of leaders in both houses. They view it as a way to create jobs and demonstrate to a skeptical electorate that Republicans and Democrats can overcome partisanship to help the economy.

The transportation provisions in the Senate bill have broad bipartisan support while competing legislation in the House of Representatives is another matter.

On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner implored majority Republicans to approve a $260 billion proposal, which has fallen victim to internal squabbling.   Continued...