week's end, the Senate will pass a six-month extension of the nation's
four-year-old transportation law -- setting the stage for another
showdown with the House, where transportation committee chairman Jim
Oberstar remains on the fence about abandoning the push for a new long-term bill before 2010.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed yesterday that the upper
chamber would scale back its original plan to delay the next federal
transportation law by 18 months, as was originally proposed by the Obama administration.
six-month extension is "expect[ed] to pass," Reid said on the Senate
floor last night. That leaves the ball in Oberstar's court, with time
running out before the expiration of the one-month reprieve under which state transportation officials are now operating.
the Senate can keep its six-month extension within the budgetary
boundaries set by the House "pay-as-you-go" rule, which requires any
new spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere, that may force the hand of
Democrats in the lower chamber.
An early answer from the
House side may well come tomorrow, when Oberstar is scheduled to appear
at a rally sponsored by the construction equipment industry aimed at
drumming up support for passage of a new infrastructure bill before the
end of the year.