The House bill extends current transportation programs for only an additional 90 days and includes controversial funding proposals for future transportation programs. However, the act to move the bill to conference is a positive step toward achieving a final long-term authorization.
Passed by a vote of 292 – 127, the House bill is a “clean” extension, but contains three provisions that may be disputed in the Senate conference:
1. Approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline;
2. Regulatory streamlining provisions contained in the original House bill, HR 7; and
3. A provision that would ease Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired power plants.
The White House has also already threatened a veto over the Keystone add-on, believing that further environmental reviews need to be completed first.
Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) both agreed that the goal is to get to conference. Inhofe told reporters he thinks everything will work out: “I’m pretty familiar with the politics that are going on in the House. And I would have liked to have done it in a different way — I’d liked to have already been in conference by this time.” That said, Inhofe added, “I’m a big fan of trying to do something about that [Keystone] and I’m not going to take a position that I don’t want them to do it up there.”
Boxer indicated she too just wants a conference, but that it won’t be so simple to attach Keystone to MAP-21, with the 60-vote threshold. “We don’t actually have 60 votes for that, so we have to come out with something that has 60 votes,” she said.