UPDATED WITH BOEHNER COMMENTS House Republican leaders have arrived at an 18-month highway bill they hope can replace a much broader five-year bill that faltered earlier this month, according to lawmakers and aides.
But speaking Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner says the 18-month option was falling flat with members of congress. ""Apparently our members don't think too highly of it," Boehner said of attempts to sell the shorter bill to the House majority. ""I would only think of it as a fall-back measure."
Boehner said leadership is still trying to work on a 5-year bill.
The 18-month bill would reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund into mid-2013, and also reconnects federal transit funding to the trust fund. Disconnecting the two proved contentious in the 5-year bill and caused several Republicans in transit-heavy districts to revolt.
The shorter bill would also glean about $40 billion from new cuts to federal worker pensions, a move guaranteed to enrage Democrats, especially since the figure appears to be much larger than a $10 billion estimated gap in the bill for the Highway Trust Fund.
The rest of the bill's policies remain largely the same to the 5-year bill that was scuttled when conservatives also rejected it because of its $260 billion price tag. Republicans do not yet have a total cost figure for the 18-month bill, an aide said.
Republican members were polled for their support while on the House floor Wednesday evening, according to Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a moderate and GOP point person on transportation. "They're going to try to jam it," he said. "They went backward because that's what the conservatives said they wanted," LaTourette told Transportation Nation.
A Republican leadership aide confirmed the details of the new bill and said it could be on the House floor as early as next week.
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