A few weeks ago I wrote a blog titled, “Highway Bill – Political Football.” In that blog post I supported the efforts of Representatives Mica and Duncan to pass a short term highway funding extension, but encouraged them to get a long term bill passed by June.
Well, it looks like any long term highway bill has virtually no chance of passage this year – just as predicted in my past writings.
Because transportation is intimately linked to the price of oil, any transportation legislation is prime pickings to insert energy related language. The Republicans in the House have drawn the proverbial line in the sand with one such issue – The Keystone Pipeline. This continues to be a hot political button and one the Republicans have rightfully advocated the approval of despite President Obama’s refusal to do the right thing for America’s energy independence.
But, choosing to try and include approval for the Keystone Pipeline in a meaningful long term highway bill, or even a short term extension, essentially kills any chance of approval.
The Democratic controlled Senate, with the support of many Republicans, passed a short term (though they refer to it as long term) 2 year highway bill. The House will not pass that bill. The Senate will not pass a House bill that includes the Keystone Pipeline or other similar provisions.
So, what we have here is an impasse that will result in multiple short term extensions that gets us through the election to the lame duck Congress and perhaps into the next Congress in 2013.
What does this mean for the transportation industry? It means states are unable to plan much needed highway and infrastructure improvements with any certainty. Yes, there will still be construction but it will be little more than patchwork to a deteriorating system. It means that innovative proposals like that of Congressman Graves have little chance of any real consideration. It means more of the status quo – which is not a good thing.
It’s high time Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – figure out that the political gamesmanship is what people are tired of. Americans deserve meaningful solutions and using the long term highway bill in a game of high stakes political football is in no way helping this great country.