First, John Boehner split his transportation bill into three smaller bills that deal with transportation, oil and gas drilling, and government employee pensions separately. Now, it looks like the transportation component won’t be voted on until after the President’s Day recess, according to Politico:
Boehner’s office attributed the decision to two factors: One of the offsets in the payroll tax cut agreement is a reduction in pension benefits for federal workers that overlaps with a cost offset in the highway bill, plus a thick docket of amendments makes it more difficult to finish the bill by the end of this week.
Left unsaid in Boehner’s rationale is the difficulty that Republican leaders have had in assembling the necessary vote for a bill that funds surface transportation programs, opens up oil drilling and cuts back on the federal contribution to government workers’ pensions.
The news is a sign that Boehner’s attack on transit and street safety programs is treading on thin ice, but defeating the House GOP’s highways and drilling initiative is far from guaranteed.
Delaying the vote on the transportation portion frees up the House to first take up the energy-only portion, which expands offshore and arctic oil and gas drilling and contains the Keystone XL pipeline provision. That bill will be debated and possibly voted on by the entire House today.
For Boehner, the key is still the transportation portion, known as H.R. 7. Last night the House Rules Committee established that if H.R. 7 does not pass, then the energy and pension reform bills cannot be recombined and would head to the Senate individually. It is unlikely that an isolated drilling bill would find much support in the Democratic-controlled Senate.