House Republican leaders are desperately searching for the votes to pass their $260 billion transportation bill this week.
The political right and left have attacked the legislation, and even Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is making no bold predictions that he can cobble together the 218 votes needed for passage.
Conservatives claim the bill is an unaffordable boondoggle, while Democrats and prominent centrist Republicans such as Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) say it would gut funding for public transportation, bike paths and pedestrians.
“I want a dedicated stream of funding for mass transit,” said King, a committee chairman whose Long Island district includes a large number of residents who commute to New York City by train.
Boehner has made the legislation a priority and the election-year centerpiece of the House GOP’s jobs agenda. The measure uses revenues from an expansion of domestic oil drilling to offset some of the cost of maintenance and improvements to roads and bridges.
The bill also contains no earmarks, which have traditionally been liberally sprinkled throughout transportation legislation. This cheers fiscal hawks, but makes it harder for Boehner to win support from rank-and-file members who in the past have enjoyed directing federal largesse toward their pet projects.
“Will it pass? For the good of the country, I sure hope so,” Boehner said during a speech Thursday to the Conservative Political Action Conference. “But that’s not up to me, that’s up to the House.”