House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, has
decided to avoid an election-year veto of the transportation reauthorization
bill, according to Republican sources who spoke to The Hill newspaper.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Tom
Daschle, D-SD, said he also opposes a temporary extension.
“Here we go again, without the opportunity
for Democrats to participate while the Republicans are making very partisan
decisions about the level of commitment to highways for the next several years.
That is wrong,” Daschle said.
Hastert, who has been negotiating with
White House officials, has decided to pass on a 30- or 60-day extension and use
the extra time to pare down the cost to a level acceptable to the president.
The speaker is scheduled to meet with
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, and White House Chief of Staff Andy
Card this week to reach an agreement on the total funding level for the bill.
GOP leaders think that a presidential veto
of a major bill and a possible override of that veto by the
Republican-controlled House and Senate would be bad politics six months before
an election, especially since President Bush has not yet vetoed a single bill
during his tenure in office.