Pressure Mounts on House to Take Up Senate Bill. Does the House Care?

In the Senate, many swing states and some solid GOP strongholds produced votes in favor of a two-year transportation bill. The House GOP leadership hasn't budged. Image: T4A

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Congressional Democrats, some Congressional Republicans, unions, politicians from New Jersey, Chicago and Louisiana — they all have one message for the House of Representatives: Pass the Senate transportation bill.

President Obama made it a key part of his weekly address this Sunday, pointing out that the economy would “take a hit” without a full reauthorization. The Transportation Trades Department, a coalition of 32 labor unions, said it is “an outrage” that the House is delaying taking up the Senate’s bipartisan two-year bill. The National League of Cities urged the House to act in time for the spring construction season.

It’s widely considered a longshot that the House will pass the Senate bill, but if the momentum is shifting at all, it seems to be moving in that direction. On Monday three House Republicans — Reps. Charlie Bass (NH), Judy Biggert (IL), and Robert Dold (IL) — joined Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in a letter to Speaker Boehner [PDF], pleading with the House to pass the Senate bill.

Meanwhile, the House GOP leadership appears to be floundering. With movement conservatives taking cues from groups like the Heritage Foundation, which is firmly opposed the Senate bill, the Republican base hasn’t budged. But the stubborn refusal to go in a bipartisan direction is starting to call to mind fights — the debt ceiling fiasco, the payroll tax brinkmanship — that damaged the House GOP’s standing. Earlier this month Politico called the House’s inability to move a reauthorization proposal out of its own chamber “Exhibit A” in “Republican Dysfunction.”

Since then, the chamber hasn’t looked much more functional. Boehner pulled a 60-day extension off the table yesterday when he failed to get the necessary votes. House Democrats were trying to force a vote on the Senate bill, but observers predict the House will cobble together a majority along partisan lines before the buzzer at week’s end. After that, it’s anyone’s guess how the end game will play out.