WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. House of Representatives Republican said it was “critically important” to improve the country’s infrastructure and said Congress is looking at options to pay for repairs, according to an interview aired Sunday night on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
House Speaker John Boehner said he agreed with the White House there was room for bipartisan compromise on the issue of fixing crumbling roads and bridges, but that Congress in the past has not opted for an increase in federal gasoline taxes to fund the effort.
Lawmakers face a May deadline to fund massive road, bridge and transit projects, with money in the highway trust fund that pays for the projects set to run out then.
Republicans have been struggling to find a way to pay for legislation with a five-year price tag in the range of $75 billion to more than $100 billion.
“We believe that through tax reform, a couple of other options that are being looked at, we can find the funds to fund a long-term highway bill. It’s critically important to the country,” Boehner said, according to a transcript of the interview.
On “60 Minutes,” the Ohio Republican also discussed intra-party disagreements and said small-government Tea Party activists who have dominated the party in recent years differed with him on strategy and tactics, rather than on a vision.
In 2013, Tea Party Republican lawmakers pushed a confrontation over Obamacare, the president’s signature healthcare reform law, that led to a two-week government shutdown.
“We continue to work to bring those members along, and they bring them along... But it’s always a work in progress,” Boehner said.
In the interview, conducted with both Boehner and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the wake of President Barack Obama’s defiant State of the Union speech last week, the pair declared several of Obama’s initiatives outlined in the speech as dead on arrival.
There is no chance that Obama’s proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and help Americans pay for community college will gain traction in Congress, Boehner and McConnell said.
In the wide-ranging interview, the pair also said they disagreed with Obama’s characterization that Congressional action on sanctions against Iran would derail multi-party talks under way to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
“Under the proposal we’re considering those enhanced sanctions would only occur if a deal is not reached,” McConnell said.
Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Eric Walsh