House Republicans on Thursday proposed an expansion of domestic oil production to fund a long-term transportation spending bill, a plan that set the stage for a showdown with Senate Democrats who don't want highway funding coupled with drilling for new oil.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) said he hopes to pass a multi-year surface transportation bill by year's end that would serve as the centerpiece of a GOP jobs plan. He said expanded drilling could "provide a new revenue stream for infrastructure repair and improvement."
"Our bill links job creating, energy production and infrastructure together," Boehner said.
The Republicans had committed in August to finding new funding to augment the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund, the traditional source of surface transportation revenue that relies on the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax.
Though details of their plan to raise new revenue through expanded drilling were not released, it was anticipated to take the form of a well-head tax on new wells.
The House proposal drew immediate reaction from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), whose Environment and Public Works Committee approved a surface transportation bill last week.
"The proposal by Republican leadership would mire a very popular surface transportation bill in controversy, and it would directly threaten many thousands of fishing, tourism and recreation-related jobs," Boxer said. "In addition, I am told by financial experts that this proposal would fall billions short."