The chairwoman of the committee of lawmakers that is conferencing on a new federal surface transportation bill said that a substantial portion of the issues that could prevent a deal between the House and Senate have already been cleared, according to reports published on The Hill.
“I wanted to tell you were making very good progress – I would say great progress – on working through the various issues,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said during a press conference at the Capitol.
“Approximately 80 percent of the (Environment and Public Works) title ... is non-controversial,” she continued. “The EPW title makes up about 80 percent of the entire bill, so this is a very substantial report I'm giving you.”
Boxer is leading a 47-member committee of lawmakers that is trying to meld a two-year, $109-billion transportation bill that was passed by the Senate with a pair of temporary extensions of current funding that were approved by the House.
The lower chamber had sought to pass a five-year, $260-billion measure that was funded in part by increasing domestic oil drilling, and their short-term measures mandate approve of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that has been rejected by President Obama.
But Boxer said Tuesday that leaders in the Republican-led House have been willing to negotiate the differences in the chambers' respective approaches to transportation funding in good faith.
“I am particularly pleased … by the willingness of Speaker Boehner to work with us to accomplish our mutual goal,” Boxer said Tuesday. “I had a very good conversation with him yesterday, and he told me that he met with the leaders on his side and he told them to get the conference report done. He is working to make sure we get this done, and that is the best news that I had heard in a long time.”
Boxer vowed the lawmakers on the conference committee would complete their negotiations before the current funding for road and transit projects runs out.
“The conferees are fully engaged, we will have our conference report ready to circulate among the various colleagues by early June and we intend to have this bill on the desk of the president before June 30,” she said.