A joint committee made up of House and Senate members has set its first meeting to craft a compromise on long-term highway funding, but issues have surfaced already that could delay or sink the effort.
While the Senate in March approved a two-year bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill, the House has managed to agree only on a temporary funding extension that runs through Sept. 30. The Senate bill will serve as a framework for the negotiations, which are slated to begin with a May 8 meeting.
However, two Republican provisions attached to the House extension are already causing problems for Democrats. One would mandate construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. President Obama and most Senate Democrats oppose the pipeline. Another House provision would dramatically cut back on the environmental review process for transportation projects, which prompted a rebuke from committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
“I want to make it clear that I cannot support the environmental provisions that have been attached to the surface bill by the House,” he said. “These riders would jeopardize the tremendous bipartisan support this bill has had so far in the Senate.”