Highway bill back in the slow lane

Congress may be forced to pass yet another short-term highway funding bill, despite countless efforts to finalize a long-term solution to a problem that has vexxed Congress for years.

Republican leaders in Congress have not scheduled a vote this week on an as-yet-unseen House and Senate compromise measure that would authorize road and bridge construction and other federal transportation expenses for six years. Members were hoping to have a long-term solution in place by Friday, the deadline for reauthorizing highway spending.

The two chambers have appointed conference members, but those lawmakers have not sat down together yet to negotiate. The first meeting will happen this week, aides said.

Behind the scenes, staff have been working on a plan to bridge the differences between similar bills passed earlier this year in the House and Senate. But aides aren't certain both chambers can get through a debate and successfully pass a compromise bill by Nov. 20, when the short-term authorization measure approved three weeks ago will expire.

A congressional source close to the negotiations suggested it might not be possible to finish by the deadline. Congress is scheduled to leave town for the Thanksgiving recess on Friday.

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