Despite efforts by Congress to finally approve a long-term highway bill that would have secured funding for key infrastructure projects for the next several years, last week Congress managed only to kick the issue down the road a few more months. It approved a three-month extension of the existing bill, meaning federal highway funds will continue through October 29. But come October, funds will once again be at risk of drying up if Congress does not enact another bill.
Not surprisingly, neither party is particularly thrilled with the three-month extension, and for good reason. As explained by Lisa Mascaro in a July 30 Los Angeles Times article, Congress approves stopgap bill to keep highway projects going, “The $8-billion bill will keep federal projects on track for the next three months, but the temporary nature of the fix creates a new crisis point in fall, as Congress has been unable to agree on a long-term solution.”
The Senate had approved a six-year bill last Thursday, but the House rejected it, forcing the three-month stopgap bill. While he quickly signed the bill to avoid a Friday shut-down of funds, President Obama criticized Congress’ failure to enact a long-term bill. As quoted in an article for TheHill.com, Obama scolds Congress at highway bill signing:
“We can’t keep on funding transportation by the seat of our pants,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. “That’s just not how the greatest country [in the world] does business. I guarantee you that’s not how China, Germany and other countries around the world handle their infrastructure.”
And in case one wonders whether it’s simply a matter of time before the House signs on to the Senate’s six-year bill, think again. According to a July 29 article by Jake Sherman and Burgess Everett in Politico, Congress faces fall from hell,
Speaker John Boehner, addressing a roomful of fellow House Republicans on Tuesday morning, described a major, six-year highway bill crafted by the Senate as a “piece of shit,” according to sources in the room. Senate Republicans have been only slightly more charitable about the House’s three-month measure, calling it another lame procrastination on an issue that needs to be dealt with now.
I guess we’ll all have to wait to see what happens this fall; at the very least, I’m sure it will be entertaining.