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MO Senator Cautiously Optimistic About Highway Bill

Mon February 09, 2004 - National Edition

ST. LOUIS (AP) Using the metaphors of a weary traveler, Sen. Kit Bond said he is cautiously optimistic that Congress can pass a new highway spending bill before the summer construction season begins.

Bond, who is chairman of a Senate transportation subcommittee that helped craft the $328 billion highway bill, said Saturday that he is facing opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Some believe the bill spends too much. Others want more money for their home states. And Republican President Bush, who prefers a smaller bill, has threatened to veto any highway legislation that raises taxes or uses budgetary gimmicks.

"We’ve got snake pits, and mountains to climb and quick sand to traverse, but I hope next week we’re going to get it traversed," Bond, R-MO, said at the Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Days gathering in St. Louis.

The previous highway bill, passed in 1998, authorized $218 billion for highway building and safety and mass transit. It expired last fall, and a temporary measure to keep it going is to expire at the end of this month.

If a new bill is not passed by then, "either we shut down highway construction, or we pass another extension, and we miss [passing a new bill] for this highway construction season," Bond said.