Senate Dems gird for transportation fight

March 2, 2012 at 12:48 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- Democrats in the U.S. Senate say they're ready to battle House Republicans over transportation legislation, much as they did over the payroll tax holiday.

Democratic leaders say the Senate bill is a two-year, $109 billion reauthorization measure that enjoys strong bipartisan support but could derail because of several controversial amendments that have been introduced, The Hill reported Friday.

House leaders were forced to pull a five-year, $260 billion proposal that had little Democratic support and was eyed cautiously by GOP conservatives because of its price tag. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill would have been funded chiefly by expanding domestic oil and gas drilling.

House Republicans haven't revealed details of their revised bill.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a key figure in the Democratic strategy during the payroll tax relief fight, said he see parallels in the transportation debate, The Hill said.

"The public wants a transportation bill, it's a jobs bill. Most Americans believe government does have a role in building highways specifically since the overwhelming high percentage of this comes from the gas tax," Schumer said. "If the House can't get its act together and pass this, it's going to hurt them just like the payroll tax hurt them."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the upper chamber would have the upper hand if there's a showdown.

"[If] you can demonstrate bipartisan support coming out of one body, people pay attention to that. It then becomes the viable solution," Murkowski said.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said any parallels between the debates over the payroll tax holiday and the transportation measure were non-existent.

"That is inane gibberish. President Obama specifically asked for a paid-for yearlong payroll tax extension. The House passed such a bill," Steel said. "Senator Schumer and the Democratic leadership in the Senate totally failed to even introduce one -- let alone pass it on a 'bipartisan' vote."

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