Lawmakers near deal on transportation bill
Congressional Democrats and Republicans reached a tentative agreement on a bill securing funding for U.S. roads, bridges and railways.
Tue, Jun 26 2012 at 10:33 PM
TRANSPORTATION BILL: "We're very close to having everything done," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. (Photo: Alex Wong/AFP)
House Democrats and Republicans said they reached a tentative deal on a bill securing long-term funding for U.S. roads, bridges and railways.
Lawmakers have stressed that 1.9 million jobs are in the balance with the passage of a massive but long-stalled transportation bill.
In the agreement, Republicans gave up on two key points: a stipulation that would have sped up authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline and one that would have allowed for fewer restrictions on coal ash from power plants.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was buoyed by progress achieved during marathon inter-party negotiations.
"We're very close to having everything done," Reid said of the so-called highway bill.
But he still warned things could fall apart if the bill doesn't come together by Wednesday, to allow for congressional procedure that would see the legislation pass both chambers of Congress and reach Obama's desk for his signature by the end of the month.
"I'm convinced that when this is all over with, we could have a very, very good highway bill that would include transit and would include some things that we work with here in the Senate," Reid told reporters.
A two-year, $109 billion transport plan passed the US Senate in March but stalled in the House of Representatives, where it faced opposition from conservative Republicans who want to cut government spending.
Lawmakers have yet to say whether the final negotiated deal will include construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has been strongly pushed by Republicans.
Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the parties have agreed on the student loan rate extension, but there was still a question as to how it could get through Congress before Sunday.
"Senator Reid and I have an understanding that we think will be acceptable to the House," McConnell told reporters.
"That may or may not be coupled with the highway proposal," he added, explaining that both pieces of legislation could be lumped together.
Both leaders say they don't want to see the student loan rates go up; the question has been how to pay for the extension of the low rates.
Copyright 2012 AFP American Edition