Monday, April 2, 2012

Congress Gives Itself 90 Days to Figure Out a Real Transportation Extension
            Two days before expiration, the House and Senate have finally agreed on a 90 day extension of the federal government’s transportation authority.  From labor unions to the Chamber of Commerce to 188 U.S. Mayors, the government’s authority to spend money on transportation has wide ranging bipartisansupport.  Expiration of the authority would have led to myriad bad consequences including loss of funding as parts of the gas tax expired and job loss as states struggled to fill the funding gap left by the absence of federal money.
            What prevented the transportation bill from being passed sooner? And why did congress pass a paltry three month extension?  The answer is straightforward: partisan gridlock in Congress.  The Senate spent months on the transportation bill, debating not whether it should be passed but what amendments to include, which includes the debate over the Blunt Amendment, which would have amended the transportation bill.  On the House side, Speaker Boehner tried to make a long term transportation extension a republican priority, but his bill met resistance not only from House Democrats, but also from the more conservative Republicans who worried about the price tag of the bill.  The result of all the time the House and Senate spent on the transportation bill: another fight three months from now as Congress tries again to figure out how to pass a bill that everyone is already agrees on.     

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