WASHINGTON – Congressional negotiators reached tentative agreement Wednesday on a long-awaited multibillion-dollar transportation bill aimed at speeding up traffic-easing projects and boosting the nation’s economic recovery.
The rare bipartisan agreement was coming together with the political drama that has come to characterize this Congress, up against a Friday deadline when the government’s authority to collect gas taxes and fund transportation projects is due to expire.
“We have a tentative agreement,” said House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla.
The measure, touted by both parties as perhaps the biggest jobs bill of the year, must be approved by the House and Senate. It would keep highway and transit spending at current levels through the end of fiscal year 2014.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure, which does not include a provision sought by House Republicans to advance the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill would include “significant reforms,” including a provision that would allow transportation agencies to “focus our highway dollars on fixing America’s highways, not planting more flowers around the country.”
A measure to prevent a doubling in student loan interest rates Saturday for 7 million college undergraduates is scheduled to be wrapped into the bill.
Negotiators cautioned that they expect to work into the night to put the finishing touches on the bill.