A number of political and procedural issues must be resolved before the final version of the reauthorization of TEA-21 can even begin.
In a meeting at the White House on April 20, President Bush and the GOP congressional leadership decided they must agree on an overall spending level for the transportation bill before conferees are appointed. The President is seeking a funding level of $256 billion over six years, and congressional leaders have said they will not put the President in a position to veto the bill. If they agree on a number below the Senate funding level of $318 billion, or the House funding level of $275 billion, it is not clear if the congressional leadership would name conferees who support the higher funding levels.
Another roadblock to naming conferees is Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who believes that Democrats have been excluded for full participation in recent House-Senate conferences. Senator Daschle used his power to prevent a conference on the highway bill until he is guaranteed Democratic participation that the Senate conferees will support the $318 billion funding level. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has so far refused to pre-conference the highway bill as it would set a precedent for all future bills.