House Republicans plan to introduce a multiyear surface transportation reauthorization bill that would expand domestic energy production to pay for transportation infrastructure. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said he hopes to pass the bill before the end of the year.
Boehner made the announcement on Thursday -- hours before the Senate blocked competing Democratic and Republican infrastructure bills -- suggesting funding levels likely to be at or above current levels.
The "energy and infrastructure jobs bill" would combine an expansion of energy production with initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure, according to a posting on the speaker's blog. It would also reform the way infrastructure money is spent.
"This is a new devoted revenue stream," he said. "As American-made energy production increases, so too does the revenue from infrastructure projects."
Boehner said the bill would be introduced in the next couple of weeks, once the details are finalized. Aides said the House committees of jurisdiction would set the revenue levels in the bill and decide what areas to open for drilling.
The GOP has long pushed for more American oil and gas production as a way of reducing the nation's dependence on foreign energy sources, and the Speaker's plan could help Republicans rebut Democratic claims that they are ignoring crumbling roads and bridges across the country.
The energy half of Boehner's plan, however, could face serious hurdles in the Senate.
Oil-states Demand a Share of the Revenue
Republicans and conservative and oil-state Democrats back large-scale expansions of oil drilling, but the majority of Senate Democrats oppose it.
The plan could also face criticism from drilling advocates who have their own ideas about where to direct the money. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is a strong supporter of expanded offshore drilling, but argues that coastal states with energy development off their shores should receive a substantial share of leasing and royalty money.
"That drilling would have to have provisions for revenue-sharing for the local counties and host states, including coastal counties and states," Landrieu said in the Capitol on Thursday.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is also a strong revenue-sharing advocate.
Louisiana and some other Gulf of Mexico states won oil-and-gas revenue-sharing in a 2006 law, ensuring a 37.5 percent cut from certain leases, but the bulk of it does not begin until 2016. Landrieu has said the program should be sped up.
Boehner first floated the concept of combining energy legislation with a surface transportation reauthorization bill in a Sept. 15 address at the Economic Club of Washington.
Prior to the Sept. 15 speech, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Florida, had been under instruction from House leadership to limit a six-year reauthorization bill to funding levels that could be supported by existing revenue into the Highway Trust Fund. That would result in a cut of roughly one-third in federal highway and transit spending compared to the current annual level, which has been temporarily extended eight times by Congress since the last bill expired in September 2009.