April 22, 2015 8:00 AM, EDT

Sen. Barbara Boxer on EPW Highway Bill: ‘I Would Schedule It Immediately’

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — If she were leading the Senate’s transportation panel, Sen. Barbara  Boxer said she already would have taken up a multiyear highway bill that the panel’s Republican chairman said would soon be considered.

“I would do it yesterday. So far they haven’t given us a date. I would schedule it immediately but so far he [EPW Chairman James Inhofe] hasn’t scheduled it,” Boxer, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, told Transport Topics on April 21.

Boxer’s comments came less than a week after Inhofe (R-Okla.) indicated that his panel would soon be considering a long-term highway bill. So far, the committee has yet to say when it would mark up what could be a five-year or six-year measure.

At this point, Congress would need to operate on overdrive if they are to advance a comprehensive surface transportation bill to the president’s desk before transportation funding authority expires on May 31. There is no word yet from Inhofe’s GOP colleagues in the House and the Senate on a proposal that would ensure federal dollars continue to flow after that deadline.

Last year, when Boxer chaired the EPW panel, the committee passed a $265 billion, six-year transportation policy measure that would have required states to spend some of their federal highway money on projects that improve freight mobility. But Congress adjourned without advancing the bill beyond committee.