Senate Leaders Reach Deal on Transpo Bill, Setting Up Slew of Votes Today

The leaders of each political party in the Senate have reached a deal on their two-year, $109 billion transportation bill, clearing the way for as many as 10 votes on amendments to the bill later today.

With a deal struck, prospects for passage of the Senate bill have now improved dramatically. Majority leader Harry Reid had tried to bypass much of the amendment process with a cloture vote on Tuesday, but couldn’t assemble enough votes to move forward. Top Republican Mitch McConnell had indicated prior to that vote that he felt a deal was near, and urged his colleagues to vote “no” in order to give him more time to negotiate.

Reid and McConnell have agreed to bring 30 amendments up for a vote. Of those, 18 are “germane” amendments dealing with specific provisions already included in the bill, and 12 are “non-germane” and deal with oil drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, among other things. The Hill is reporting that approximately 10 amendments will be voted on today, with the rest waiting until next week. T4America has also launched new amendment tracker that reflects the changes to the bill.

The germane amendments need only a simple majority to pass, while the non-germane amendments will require 60 votes, a tall order in the Democrat-controlled Senate. However, the Obama administration is already lobbying Democrats to oppose the Keystone XL amendment, perhaps an indication that it might have the votes to pass. Keystone XL has already passed the House as part of a domestic energy production bill.

The underlying bill for these amendments will be Reid’s 1500-page combination of the EPW, Banking, Commerce, and Finance titles. It is the same transportation bill that failed Tuesday’s cloture vote, but it has already been agreed to by “unanimous consent,” meaning that it doesn’t need a vote of its own to be the basis for today’s amendments.

Votes will be broadcast and webcast on C-SPAN2, and Streetsblog will be tweeting updates all day.