House highway, jobs bills gain some traction Photo Courtesy of: Office of House Speaker Boehner

House highway, jobs bills gain some traction

Now running on two separate but parallel tracks on Capitol Hill are the House version of the highway bill and a Republican initiative to field a jobs-package bill

Now running on two separate but parallel tracks on Capitol Hill are the House version of the highway bill and a Republican initiative to field a jobs-package bill, which today earned a “blessing” of sorts from the White House.

According to the office of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica, (R-FL) at a GOP conference on Capitol Hill today, Mica’s “long-term transportation reform bill” received the support of the House Republican leadership and so “will continue to be the focus of efforts to pass a major transportation and energy jobs initiative through the House.”

 “House leaders and I agree that the five-year transportation measure approved by the Committee in February is the best option for a job-creating bill to improve our infrastructure,” Mica said in an emailed statement. “During a meeting today with House Republicans, we had a productive discussion and outlined our hope to move forward with the Committee’s five-year bill with a few changes, including the financing of transit from the Highway Trust Fund.

He added that the committee had already “crafted a responsible bill with much needed and long overdue reforms.  Working with the Republican leadership and GOP Conference members, we hope to move forward with a bill in the coming weeks that will create jobs and lower energy costs for Americans.”

Per a report by Jake Sherman posted on Politico.com, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) told his Republican colleagues in a morning meeting today that something must be done to pass the highway bill, which is widely regarded as the main GOP jobs bill of the 112th Congress. As reporter Sherman pointed out, “the House has to pass either some version of Mica’s highway bill — which includes reforms many conservatives love — or the Senate bill, which House Republicans have criticized.”

The news report goes on to relate that according to a source in the room, Boehner told the conference that: “Inaction is always the easier path. It’s the path the Democratic-controlled Senate has chosen on most issues of consequence. But on highways, even the Senate – the do-nothing Democratic Senate – is going to pass something.”

Sherman noted in his report that the highway bill has been “a case study of the divisions within the House Republican Conference. Parochial issues and the price tag of a large infrastructure bill have scared off upward of 90 lawmakers, who told GOP leaders they would not support Mica’s legislation.”

On the other hand, wrote Sherman, GOP leaders “believe they’ve solved many of the outstanding issues and are trying to pass something — anything — out of the chamber to strengthen their hand with the Senate” before highway funding runs out on March 31.

The new and separate jobs bill—dubbed the JOBS Act— being floated by House GOP members is not without controversy, even though it has already received a positive response from the White House.

According to a posting by Frank Thorpe to MSNBC.com’s “First Read” blog, the White House “has given Congress its blessing to pass a package of bills introduced by House Republicans designed to help small businesses, hinting that the package could pass overwhelmingly” in the House when it's brought up for a vote, which was expected to happen today.

A statement issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget said that President Obama is "encouraged to see that there is common ground" between the JOBS Act and some of the proposed policies included in his 2012 State of the Union address.

However, wrote Thorpe in his post, “House Democrats are taking issue with the branding of the bill, which they say has taken Democratic ideas and turned them Republican for the sake of politics.”

Thorpe also pointed out that even if passed by the House, the JOBS Act’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain as “a number of the bills included in the package have been waiting for a vote for -- at times -- months. He noted that “incorporated into the JOBS Act are six bills, four of which have already passed through the House with over 400 votes each, but have failed to be introduced in the Democratic-held Senate.”

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