Last week, in what was reported as a remarkable gesture, two senators carried a Senate-passed transportation bill to the House as a conciliatory bipartisan gesture. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and James Inhof, R-Okla., are carrying the water for their parties in efforts to get a new bill passed that would extend funding for two years.
The House has not agreed; in fact, it has not passed its own version of a transportation bill. The last bill expired in 2009; the road, rail and air infrastructure system is moving on borrowed time.
The Senate passed a bipartisan transportation bill (the vote was 74-22) that would invest $109 billion over two years in needed projects and support jobs, as many as two million. The Senate bill would simply continue current spending levels, which are due to expire at the end of this month.
Sen. Thad Cochran was emphatic last week in his comments about the situation: “The lack of a federal highway bill represents a deterrent to budget planning and critical infrastructure development in Mississippi and around the country. I remain hopeful that Senate and House negotiators will be able to find consensus for an agreement that will keep Congress from having to pass yet another short-term highway bill extension.”
MAP-21, as the bill is called, maintains current funding for surface transportation programs at $54.5 billion per year.
On Thursday, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said if no agreement is reached by June 30 he would favor a six-month extension to push prolonged debate past the election and likely land in a lame-duck session.
“Frankly I think if we get to June 30, it’d be a six-month extension and move this thing out of the political realm that it appears to be in at this moment,” he was quoted in The Hill, a Washington daily.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that she doubts the sincerity of Republicans. Pelosi and Boehner both need to think about the country and its needs before their parties.
Without earmarks to protect and to grease the legislative skids, members have been liberated to wage battle as they see fit. The result is lockdown.