Updated 06/19/2012 08:51 PM
Lawmakers working to reach deal on federal highway bill
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have a small window left to reach a deal on a highway bill and the leaders of both the House and Senate say it's time to get to work. Erin Billups has more.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the leaders of the joint House Senate Transportation Conference Committee say they plan to double down and get a highway bill passed by the end of the month.
Both sides are having difficulty getting past ideological differences within the spending plan, leading many to believe there would be another short-term extension of the bill.
"It's being held up because there are about 100 people in the House of Representatives who no longer believe that the federal government should fund transportation," said Senator Charles Schumer.
The sticking points continue to be, in part, the House GOP's insistence that a provision speeding up approval of the Keystone Pipeline Project be included in the bill. Republicans also want democrats to relax environmental reviews needed to move forward with infrastructure projects.
The divide is clearly eviden,t even within New York's congressional delegation.
"We're trying to find a way to compress the whole process. It is just as effective, but done in a shorter period of time. There's nothing wrong with that. Why there's pushback is a mystery to me," said Representative Richard Hanna.
"If you've got a really terrible project, all you have to do is delay the environmental impact statement for 270 days and your project is fine. The sponsors of the project will have every incentive to delay the environmental review," Representative Jerrold Nadler said.
While most lawmakers would prefer a long-term plan, it's still unclear whether they can rise above election year politics before the end of the month when the current transportation bill expires.
"It [an extension] certainly doesn’t give certainty to any of the communities that really rely on the federal funding," Hanna said.
The transportation bill has been extended nine times already and there's concern another delay could deplete the highway trust fund which helps pay for transit. Lawmakers are optimistic that this latest push from leadership will help close the deal.
"I am still hopeful that common sense will reign and we'll just pass the Senate bill," Nadler said.