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Boehner: 'Fundamental Change' Means This Bill Stays in GOP Territory

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 02:02 PM

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The House GOP's $260 billion transportation and infrastructure bill is facing a revamp, but Speaker John Boehner made it clear Thursday where he's going for more votes. And it's not to Democrats.

Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested to reporters he's not fishing for Democrats to support the bill and will instead tweak the legislation in an effort to woo more Republicans.

A revolt among conservatives and some suburban Republicans forced GOP leaders to delay consideration of large parts of the bill this week. That's sent leaders, including Boehner and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fl.), on the hunt for policy changes that will pull more votes.

Conservative revolts on big, fiscally important bills have in the past sent Boehner into the arms of House Democrats to get the votes he needs. The Budget Control Act and a spending package that avoided a government shutdown are examples from the past year. Just today, negotiators--and Boehner--signed off on a payroll tax and unemployment insurance extension deal that Democrats say they'll back, while conservatives won't.

And on a traditionally bipartisan highway bill, you might expect Boehner to opt for the same strategy. So far, though, he isn't.

After spending a few minutes trashing the GOP's transportation and energy bill at a press conference Thursday, House Democratic Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was asked if she's been approached by Boehner for support on the bill. She said she hadn't.

"No, we haven't had any suggestions of, 'What would you like to see here,'" Pelosi said.

The Senate transportation bill, Pelosi pointed out, is a bipartisan effort shepherded by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Ultimately the House effort, if it passes, may have to go up against a Senate bill with broader appeal.

Minutes after Pelosi's remarks, Boehner had this to say about the Senate and his own strategy:

"The Senate's another chamber, they can do what they want to do. We believe that we need to have fundamental change to get the government barriers out of the way to produce jobs, both in the energy area and in the infrastructure area. So we're going to continue to move down that path."

Democrats are railing against the House bill for its treatment of transit, rail projects, environmental review and reliance on fossil fuel production for financing. We'll have to wait until after the President's Day recess to find out if Boehner's strategy sticks, and if it can get the GOP's bill past the the House.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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