The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to extend federal surface transportation authority for 90 days, preventing a shutdown that would have put 130,000 federal highway projects at risk. The bill now goes to President Obama.
Passage of the stop-gap measure came after a failed last-ditch effort by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to attach the two-year, $109 billion highway reauthorization passed by the Senate to the extension. Boxer argued a short-term extension leaves too much uncertainty over federal highway funding.
House Republicans have been unable to unite around a long-term highway bill, opening the door for Democrats to press House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring up the bipartisan Senate bill and allow it to pass with Democratic votes.
Leadership aides said the staffers for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Boehner are negotiating to set up a House-Senate conference committee to seek agreement on a long-term bill. Those talks will continue into the pending two-week recess.