Barring a legislative miracle, there is no hope that a transportation funding bill will be enacted this year. Both Republican and Democratic Senate sources Nov. 17 said that it is unlikely an agreement will be reached by week’s end when Congress recesses for the year.

Sen. John McCain blocks highway bill

Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Sen. Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Democrats were “ready to go.” But Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the conference committee negotiating a final bill has two GOP holdouts. Inhofe declined to identify the lawmakers, but Democratic sources point to Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama, Christopher Bond of Missouri and John McCain of Arizona. “If we can get a couple of Democrats to sign a conference agreement we’d be in good shape,” Inhofe said.

Whether or not there are enough Democrats who support a plan may not matter. At a White House meeting earlier in the day the prospects of the highway bill were discussed in a meeting that President George W. Bush held with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). The leaders acknowledged at that meeting that there would not be a bill, according to one Senate aide.

McCain later told ENR that he would withhold support “until Arizona gets its fair share.”

(Photo courtesy office of Sen. McCain)