Todd Zwillich

Todd Zwillich appears in the following:

SOTU 2015: Reading Between the Lines

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The president laid out an ambitious agenda in last night's State of the Union address. We parse through the proposals laid out in the address and the GOP response to the speech.

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House Votes to Defund NSA Spying Programs

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Republican controlled House of Representatives took a surprising step to curb the federal government's power by voting to defund two key NSA programs. But the bill still has to pass the Senate.

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Snowden to Meet With Human Rights Groups in Quest for Asylum

Friday, July 12, 2013

After three weeks of silence, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is meeting with international human rights workers today from his base in the Moscow Airport. In an email invitation to groups like Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Snowden wrote that he has "been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world,” according to The New York Times. Joining us is Ellen Barry, Moscow correspondent for our partner The New York Times. She walks us through the possible outcomes this meeting could produce.

In an email invitation to groups like Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Snowden wrote that he has "been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world,” according to The New York Times. In the note, Snowden says that U.S. government is carrying out an "unlawful campaign" to block his attempts at being granted asylum.
Joining us is Ellen Barry, Moscow correspondent for our partner The New York Times. She walks us through the possible outcomes this meeting could produce



New Movie Releases: 'Grown Ups 2,' 'Pacific Rim,' and An Update From Johnny Depp

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Takeaway's Movie Date team, Kristen Meinzer and Rafer Guzman, review this week's major releases. On the roster this week:“Grown Ups 2," a buddy comedy sequel featuring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade; and “Pacific Rim,” a sci-fi film starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day. 

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The Man Who Made Millions Selling Fake Bomb Detectors

Friday, July 12, 2013

In May, British businessman James McCormick was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the sale of fake "bomb-detectors." The gadget he sold was based on a fake golf-ball finder and is actually entirely unable to detect bombs—or anything else for that matter. Adam Higgenbotham, Bloomberg Businessweek reporter writes about McCormick's rise and fall in the latest issue of the magazine. He joins The Takeaway to discuss McCormick's scheme and why it took so long for the law to catch up with him.


Tube Transportation: New Technology Designed For Space Travel on Earth

Friday, July 12, 2013

In the classic television show "The Jetsons," father George brought his kids to school in tiny capsules in the year 2062. Soon, we might be able to travel via capsule, too. It sounds far-fetched, but the idea and its implementation is already being explored. Daryl Oster is the founder and CEO of ET3, a company dedicated to developing enhanced tube transport technologies that will serve as a form of lightening fast tube transportation. He joins us today to discuss the technology behind these tubes.

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NSA Revelations Present Business, Ethical Challenges in Silicon Valley

Friday, July 12, 2013

Yesterday, The Guardian released a report showing the extent to which Microsoft worked with the NSA to make data from Outlook, Hotmail and Skype accessible. They highlight the complicated business and ethical problems in Silicon Valley. Steve Blank, author of "The Secret History of Silicon Valley," joins us to explain Microsoft's role in circumventing the encryption process.


Maternal Antibodies May Be Closely Connected to Autism

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Immunologists are getting closer to understanding the possible causes of autism. New research suggests that nearly a quarter of all autism cases may be connected to the presence of certain maternal antibodies. Joining The Takeaway to discuss this research is the study's lead author, Dr. Judy Van de Water, a Department of Internal Medicine professor at the School of Medicine UC Davis MIND Institute, and Jackie Murphy, a mother of an 8-year-old autistic boy who participated in the study.

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Closing the Gaping Gender-Based Wage Gap

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

In 2013, despite the growing number of females in positions of power, full-time working women still make less than men on average. As wage secrecy continues to exist, so does illegal gender wage discrimination and unjustified pay negotiations. Joining The Takeaway is Marianne DelPo Kulow, Associate Professor of Law at Bentley University. She discusses whether mandatory wage disclosures could really close the gender-based wage gap. 

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BREAKING: Congress Close to Deal on 18-Month Transportation Bill

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

UPDATED WITH BARBARA BOXER'S STATEMENT  Congressional negotiators appear to be locking down an 18-month transportation bill-- just before current funding expires at the end of the week.

Final numbers on the developing deal are not yet available, and aides stress none of its provisions are final until the whole package is inked. But aides from both parties  confirmed key details for Transportation Nation, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent out an email indicating that it's basically a done deal.

“I am so glad that House Republicans met Democrats half way, as Senate Republicans did months ago," she wrote. “The bill is funded at current levels."

Politically-charged provisions forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and rolling back EPA rules on coal ash will not be included in the final deal, according to aides. That could make it more difficult for House GOP leaders to secure votes for a final deal from Republicans, who have voted several times in favor of the measures and in many cases insisted on its inclusion in the highway bill.

In a concession by Democrats, extra money for land and water conservation looks to be left out of the deal. There are likely to be further reductions to transportation "enhancement" requirements forcing states to spend a certain portion of their highway funds on bike paths and other non-road projects.

Boxer's email referenced an agreement on the enhancement requirements.  "For the first time, we send half of the funds for bike paths and pedestrian walkways directly to local entities," she wrote, "and we protect those funds while giving states more flexibility on their share."

Republicans appear to have scored a victory on the pace of environmental reviews for projects. While the original Senate bill limited reviews to 15 years, the deal afoot among conferees limits reviews to eight years, aides said. The final deal also appears to include extra money for rural schools and for Gulf Coast states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Lawmakers and aides are rushing to ink the deal and file it in the House before midnight Wednesday. That would allow the House to pass the agreement Friday and still comply with House Republicans' three-day preview requirement before bills can reach the floor. The transportation deal is likely to get paired up with a separate deal preventing a student loan rate hike.

Senate aides say it is unlikely senators would remain in town Friday to stamp the deal with an official vote. That means senators would have to have broad agreement to approve it by unanimous consent some time after the House acts.

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Progress? Transportation Bill Shows a Pulse

Thursday, June 21, 2012

(UPDATED WITH SENATOR BOXER'S COMMENTS) The surface transportation bill appears to have been removed from life support and may be on the mend.

Positive statements are emanating all over the Capitol about House-Senate negotiations over surface transportation legislation. It was only days ago lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were pronouncing the deal dead and predicting another extension.

“The conferees have moved forward toward a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a highway reauthorization bill. Both House and Senate conferees will continue to work with a goal of completing a package by next week,” reads a joint statement issued by chief negotiators Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.)

Speaking in the hallway of the Senate building Thursday afternoon, Boxer said the House and Senate are working cooperatively -- and getting along better than they were two weeks ago. "We are really finishing up our work," she said. "If all goes the way it's going now, we  should be through with most of the bill very soon, and then w'ell tackle the outstanding issues. I'm ... quite optimistic."

She added: "We'll be working over the weekend." (Listen to her comments below.)

"Significant progress is being made," Reid said. "We're certainly in better shape than we were 24 hours ago."

Of course, none of this necessarily means the conference will reach agreement. Lawmakers remain at odds over policy issues like environmental reviews for construction projects and so-called transportation "enhancement" projects like bike lanes and medians--not to mention political issues like a Republican bid to force construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and a repeal of EPA coal ash regulations.

If no agreement is reached by June 30th, the government's authority to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund expires.

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Leaders to Negotiators: Make One Last Push on Transportation Bill

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Congressional leaders told negotiators involved in faltering transportation bill talks to bear down and make an agreement.

That was the message transmitted by lawmakers emerging from a meeting at Speaker John Boehner's Capitol offices on Tuesday afternoon. Chief GOP negotiator Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told lawmakers to "redouble our efforts" to try and reach an agreement by the end of this week.

Mica suggested negotiations are entering a final, critical stage. Other lawmakers have suggested that a six-month extension of current surface transportation policy will have to be drafted to prevent highway programs from shutting down June 30, when federal authority to spend money from the Highway Trust Fund expires.

"We're going to take it hour by hour," Mica said.

Mica said Boxer had offered new Senate proposals in the talks. But a House GOP leadership aide suggested Democrats have been unwilling to move far off of policy positions contained in the Senate bill, which passed in March with 74 votes.

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BREAKING: Lawmaker: Highway Conference Dead, It's an Extension

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

(UPDATED WITH HARRY REID'S COMMENTS) There are varying degrees of pessimism and cautious optimism in the US Capitol today as House and Senate negotiators huddle for a last try at agreement on a Highway Bill. But one lawmaker close to the House Republican leadership says conference negotiations have failed and that a six-month extension is afoot.

"Zero," said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), when asked about the chances of last-ditch conference negotiations yielding an agreement before next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)  is set to meet with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 4 PM today. Chief negotiators Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) are also scheduled to be in on the meeting. "The purpose is to come up with a clean extension" of six months, LaTourette said in an interview.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disputed that assessment, saying it was not accurate that leaders are set to negotiate on a six-month extension this afternoon.

LaTourette's comments are in contrast to more optimistic statements from other negotiators who are trying to put the best light possible on the faltering talks. Indeed, nothing stops conference talks from producing a deal even while leaders are laying the groundwork for failure.

Republicans and Democrats are still at odds on several policy areas, including streamlining environmental reviews for road projects, transportation "enhancements" that push highway money toward bike paths and beautification projects, and program consolidations.

That's before leaders even tackle politically charged issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and EPA regulations governing coal ash.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va) emerged from a Democrats-only meeting in the Capitol Tuesday to say none of the issues was insolvable. "I still rate it above 50%," Rahall said of the chances of an agreement before a June 30 deadline.

How far above 50%? "Fifty-one," he said.

Freshman negotiator Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) agreed with with Rahall's tepid assessment. "Everybody's staring at each other right now and waiting for someone to blink," he said.

LaTourette, meanwhile, suggested House and Senate leaders would start ironing out a 6-month highway bill extension that would hit the floor if and when conference negotiators fail. That agreement is likely to contain some extra money for river and harbor dredging programs in order to win over some balking Republicans, he said.

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Senate Moves to Shake up Transportation Conference Amid Hill Sniping

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (photo by Todd Zwillich)

Senate negotiators tried to break an impasse with House Republicans over a surface transportation bill Tuesday, thought the proffer did little to quell a cross-Capitol war of words.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate-House conference committee trying to reach a transportation bill deal, told reporters she and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent the deal toward the house earlier in the day. Boxer said the offer was "very warmly received" but also acknowledged it skirted contentious political issues including building the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline and gutting new coal ash regs from the EPA.

Boxer dismissed reports from earlier in the day suggesting the conference was near collapse, and that another temporary extension would be needed to keep highway funding going past a June 30 deadline.

A spokesman for conference vice-chair Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said, "we will take a look at the proposal and discuss it with our conferees." It was a noncommittal response skirting the obvious: Time is running short to get a deal by the end of the month, and House conservatives are dead against agreeing to a transportation deal that doesn't go over President Barack Obama's head and force approval of the Keystone pipeline.

"We're going back and forth on all that stuff. I think in the final analysis it all has to be in there," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a Republican negotiator. On Boxer and Inhofe's offer, Hoeven said, "Let's just say we're still working on it."

Those issues could still be worked out. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared to be helping quiet talk of a faltering conference Tuesday afternoon. Asked it negotiations were falling apart, Reid said, "I don't have any dire statement to give."

But then things got heated. "There's a battle going on between (House Speaker John) Boehner and (House GOP Leader Eric) Cantor as to whether or not there should be a bill," Reid told reporters. "Cantor, of course, I'm told by others that he wants to not do a bill to make the economy worse, because he feels that's better for them. I hope that that's not true," Reid continued.

The statement elicited swift and sharp reactions from House GOP leaders.

“Leader Reid’s claims are ridiculous and patently false.  Rather than making up stories that have no basis in reality, Leader Reid should follow the House’s example and focus on pro-growth measures that will get the economy going and get people back to work,” read a statement from a Cantor spokesperson.

Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel was less diplomatic about Reid's comments. “That’s bullshit.  House Republicans are united in our desire to get a sensible, reform-minded transportation bill done, including job-creating energy initiatives like Keystone.”

Aides to Reid did not clarify his statement. But one aide described Senate Democrats as "not pessimistic" about the chances of an agreement by June 30.

Earlier, Boxer said that issues outside the Senate offer, including Keystone, coal ash regulations, and financing changes, would have to be "worked out later."

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Sen. Boxer Shines Sun on Transportation Bill Talks

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (photo by Todd Zwillich)

(Washington, D.C.) Striking a decidedly feel-good tone on transportation legislation Wednesday, Democrats' chief negotiator painted herself optimistic about the chances of a House - Senate agreement before July 4th.

"I'm feeling good," Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Boxer praised talks with Republicans--and even the Republicans themselves--for steady progress. She's leading final House-Senate conference negotiations over surface transportation legislation that expires June 30th.

"I welcome a change of heart on behalf of Republicans that I feel we have now," Boxer said. She was referring to the basics of a 2-year, $109 billion Senate bill that passed with 74 bipartisan votes in March.

Boxer said both she and chief GOP negotiator Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) agree on the desirability of a bill of even longer duration than the Senate bill. But therein lies the difficulty.While Boxer says that 80% of her EPW bill is already agreed to, that bill does not include some of the most contentious issues.

"I don't have any sicking points to share with you today," Boxer said. Even if the senator isn't sharing, that doesn't mean that sticking points aren't present.

How to pay for spending in the bill is a key issue with House conservatives, and one that aides say is not yet solved. So are the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, a GOP demand to roll back EPA coal ash regulations, spending on bike lanes, parks and other so-called transportation "enhancements," and other issues.

Boxer said she spoke to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by phone Tuesday about the conference and that she was encouraged by the chat. Boehner released a statement saying he was “hopeful that the negotiators can complete work on a conference agreement that includes Keystone and other energy measures to address high gas prices and create jobs."

The statement went on to say Boehner expects "meaningful infrastructure reforms that ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and efficiently on roads and bridges across this country.”

"I there's a lot more than three or four or two hard issues," Boxer said. Last week House Republicans voted to demand the conference return and approve the Keystone pipeline. Boxer dismissed the importance of the vote as routine but added that discussions had begun on contentious areas like Keystone.


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Optimism on Transpo Conference, Sweating the Easy Stuff

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Senator Barbara Boxer

The chair of the congressional conference committee trying to get agreement on a transportation bill is cheerleading its chances, but she admits negotiators haven't yet touched the hard stuff.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took some time Tuesday to tell reporters how optimistic she is that House and Senate negotiators can find common ground on highway and surface transportation funding by a June 30th deadline. The conference kicked off last week.

"The process has been very inclusive and I expect that to produce a result," Boxer said. The Environment and Public Works Committee Chair said she's exercising an "open-door" policy with Republicans and Democrats so that everyone feels heard as the conference marches toward its deadline.

That includes, apparently, a meeting with the conference vice-chair Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) scheduled for Thursday, where Boxer says other members are invited to attend.

Still, for all the enthusiasm, Boxer acknowledged that tough, partisan issues like GOP demands to repeal EPA's new coal ash rules and to include completion of the Keystone XL oils sands pipeline have not yet been discussed.

"We haven't gotten to the areas of disagreement," Boxer said. "We will."

Boxer has set about making her best case for the Senate's MAP-21 highway bill, which passed with 74 votes back in March. She's got a lot of Senate Republicans, and probably nearly all House Democrats on her side up against a House Republican position demanding program reforms, lower spending, Keystone, and the coal ash provisions. One big question is whether, in the end, Republican leaders' price for supporting the bill--likely to include Keystone--can get by Senate Democrats in a politically-charged election-year environment.

"I didn't hear anybody draw a line in the sand," Boxer said.

Congress has temporarily extended highway legislation nine times since it expired in 2009.

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Negotiators Kick Off Highway Bill Conference; Boxer Warns "Failure Is Not An Option"

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

(Photo (cc) by Flickr user Crazy George)

Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate began their formal conference over surface transportation funding Tuesday, in a negotiation that could take up to a month and where tens of billions of dollars are at stake.

Lawmakers from both sides of the Capitol gathered in one of the Hill's largest hearings rooms to begin hashing out an agreement between the chambers. On the table: A two-year Senate bill worth $109 billion backed by a broad bipartisan vote, versus House demands to cut spending, reform federal projects, cut regulations and force approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

The extension governing highway funding expires June 30. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) the champion of the Senate bill and the conference committee chair, told lawmakers they'll need to reach agreement by early June in order to get an agreement written and passed in time.

It won't be easy. Several tries left House Republicans unable to agree amongst themselves on a multi-year transportation policy. Meanwhile, many House conservatives consider the Senate bill a non-starter, largely because of its funding levels.

Now House Republicans begin the the conference at a distinct disadvantage. House and Senate Democrats are strongly behind the Senate bill, as are many Senate Republicans. The White House has also strongly backed the Senate's bid. SenatorJames Inhofe (R-Okla) leaned on House conservatives to accept the Senate's bill, which he helped craft with Boxer.

"I have every expectation we are going to be able to do that which the majority of Americans want done," he said.

House Republicans hold a few cards and are making some demands of their own. They want the Senate's $109 billion price tag reduced and are pushing hard to force the White House to accept final construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. They have also laid down markers repealing pending EPA coal ash pollution regulations.

"Let's not just spend more money. Let's have some serious reforms," urged Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) the conference committee's vice-chair.

Boxer began the proceedings with a long list of lobbying and interest organizations that support the Senate bill, ranging from AAA and trucking groups to the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"If the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce can work together, then surely we can work together," she said, adding that "failure is not an option for us."

But the reality is that in the 112th Congress, failure is, in fact, an option. Leadership aides in the House and Senate predicted that the election-year talks would likely lead to an agreement rejected by House Republican rank-and-file members. That could force Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to pass any final agreement with the help of large numbers of Democrats. Failing that, Congress can do what it's done nine times since 2005 and simply pass another extension of current law to avoid a shutdown.

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SHUTDOWN AVERTED: House Passes 90-Day Transpo Extension, Senate Follows Suit

Thursday, March 29, 2012

(photo: Flickr user: IceNineJon)

UPDATED -- SENATE PASSES EXTENSION BY VOICE VOTE House Republicans made the best of a bad situation Thursday and easily passed a 90-day extension to the Highway Bill, sending it to the Senate just two days before a potential shutdown of federal transportation programs and a suspension of the gas tax.

The bill passed 266-158, in a broad bipartisan vote that largely diffuses--for the moment--a standoff with Senate Democrats.

Just hours later, the bill was passed by voice vote in the Senate, staving off a potential shutdown at Sunday's deadline. Senate Dems had been pushing hard for the House to accept a $109 billion, two-year Highway Bill the Senate passed with 74 votes earlier this month.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the Senate bill's main champion, fired off  a statement attacking the temporary measure and pledging to attempt to force the House to vote on the Senate bill before leaving for a 2-week recess this evening.

"I am working with my colleagues to attach the Senate bill to the 90-day stop gap extension and send it back to the House," Boxer's statement read.

Boxer did not prevail in that effort, however, and the Senate's vote extends existing funding until June 30, making it the  ninth extension of transportation legislation since 2009.

The bill now to the president for a signature and buys 3 months to come up with a Highway Bill that can first pass the House and then go up against the Senate bill for final negotiations. That hasn't happened after months of wrangling between House Republican leaders and rank and file conservatives.

The White House also sniffed at the House's efforts: "While it is critical that we not put American jobs and safety at risk and hurt our economic recovery by allowing funding to run out, it is not enough for us to continue to patch together our nation’s infrastructure future with short-term band-aids," spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "States and cities need certainty to plan ahead and America’s construction workers deserve the peace of mind that they won’t have to worry about their jobs every few months."

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday that leaders were putting "final touches" on a GOP bill, complete with controversial energy production provisions that could include expanding oil drilling and fossil fuel exploration on federal lands including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"It'll be ready when we get back" from the upcoming Easter-Passover recess Boehner said.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, while frustrated over the House Republicans' refusal to take up their bill, Thursday expressed confidence that they have the upper hand on the speaker as he continues to hunt for a Highway Bill that can get enough Republicans to pass the House.

"He's got to spend time on this" after months of already trying, and failing to pass a House bill, one senior leadership aide said.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) told reporters after Thursday's House vote that the 90-day extension provides the breathing room lawmakers finally need to get a final deal.

"People want to get this bill done," he said.

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It's Baaaack: GOP Guns for Another 90-day Highway Extension

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House Republicans now say they'll take another shot at temporarily extending the gas tax and other highway bill provisions, after watching their last two attempts falter earlier this week.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fl.) told reporters off the House floor Wednesday he would reintroduce a 60-day extension, but that this time Republicans planned to bring it to the floor under a procedure requiring a simple 218-vote majority to pass. The vote is likely to come tomorrow, just before the House leaves on a two-week recess.

Minutes later, Mica returned to say he was "recalculating," and that he would also file a 90-day straight extension to the existing highway bill. Mica had talked it over with GOP leaders and said the 90-day extension is what he "was told to do." Republicans aides said part of the issue was that a 60-day extension would likely expire while Congress was out of town on the Memorial Day recess, complicating efforts to get a House-Senate agreement on a final Highway bill.

Twice already this week Republicans have had to yank extensions off the floor after trying to use an expedited procedure requiring a 2/3 majority for passage. Wednesday's move makes it easier to pass the bill because it requires just a simple majority. The bill would then go to the Senate, where Democrats have been pushing hard for House Republicans to pass the Senate's version of the legislation. Earlier this month the Senate passed a $109 billion, two-year Highway Bill with a 74-vote bipartisan majority.

Senate Democrats even trotted out the well-worn Washington device of a countdown clock, ticking down to midnight Saturday when existing authority to collect the 18.4-cent gas tax and fund highway and road projects expires.

Senate Dems have said they have no interest in an extension but have not gone as far as to say a temporary bill is off the table. That suggests a shutdown Saturday is highly unlikely.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not indicated that Democrats would accept either a 60- or 90-day extension, leaving open the possibility that it may not pass the Senate by this weekend. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) explained that Republicans strategy was to pass a temporary extension and the "pray that the Senate didn't call our bluff and things shut down next week."

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Dems Trip Up GOP on Highway Extension Again

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner (photo by Todd Zwillich)

For the second straight day, House Democrats have foiled an attempt by Republicans to pass a temporary Highway Bill extension designed to avoid a suspension of the gas tax and a shutdown of highway programs March 31.

Republicans were forced to pull a 60-day extension from the House floor Tuesday afternoon after Democrats refused to support the bill. Republicans were using an expedited procedure requiring support from 2/3 of the chamber for passage. That's just a day after a 90-extension was yanked under similar circumstances.

Democrats are sticking to their position that the House should take up the two-year, $109 billion Highway Bill the Senate passed earlier this month with 74 votes. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned House Republicans two weeks ago that they would have to accept the Senate bill -- or one similar to it -- unless they could reach agreement on their own broader measure. That never happened, and last week Boehner was back to panning the Senate bill.

Tuesday's move turns up the heat on House Republicans to either accept the Senate's bill or use a slower procedure for a temporary extension. The latter choice seems far more likely, as it will allow the Speaker to pass an extension with a bare majority of the House -- and avoid a revolt from conservatives unhappy with the Senate package.

There are a still a few days to go before current highway law (and the 18.4 cent gas tax feeding the Highway Trust Fund) expires. Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker Boehner, told Transportation Nation in an email, "There is only one reason this bill will not be voted on tonight:  House Democrats are playing political games with our nation’s economy.”

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