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Senate poised to pass transportation bill

House continues to flounder

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is urging House members to take a more bipartisan approach in drafting the new transportation bill, which has proven to be somewhat successful in the Senate, according to the DC.Streets Blog:

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he was recently asked by the House Appropriations Committee if he prefers a two-year transportation bill or a five-year transportation bill. Neither, he said: “I prefer a bipartisan bill.”

Bipartisanship is the reason the Senate bill is a good bill,” LaHood said, joining T4America and a number of other advocacy organizations in backing the upper house’s transportation proposal, which happens to be the two-year one. “It reflects the values of the American people.”

Granted, LaHood didn’t have much to choose from, since the House has scratched its original five-year proposal and has not yet settled on a replacement. But LaHood indicated that the hyper-partisan process that created the House’s initial proposal was reason enough to oppose it.

“Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe sat together and wrote a bill,” LaHood said. “That’s how you get good legislation, not when one person flops down a bill on the desk of a House committee and doesn’t have the courtesy to share it with the other side of the aisle.”

While LaHood is on record calling the House bill, which would have eliminated dedicated funding for transit, the worst he’d ever seen “in 35 years of public service,” the Senate bill, by its authors’ own admission, contains many of the same policy provisions as the House’s.

Both bills attack funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, though the Senate has adopted an amendment that softens the blow. Both contain measures that “expedite” project delivery by skimping on environmental review. And neither does anything meaningful in the way of finding new revenue sources to ensure adequate — let alone increased — funding for long-term investment in transportation infrastructure.

Even LaHood admits that the Senate bill is a far cry from the administration’s proposed budget, which he will continue to defend in congressional testimony later this week. ”It’s not everything we all want, but it’s a pretty darn good start. We should be persuading the House to get on the bus.”

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Getting the House into gear should be a top priority for LaHood, considering the lack of progress they’ve made thus far, and the current state of America’s infrastructure.  While he has predicted the Senate to pass their bill as early as this week, LaHood is not as confident about the House, according to The Hill:

“I don’t even know what bill they’re taking up,” LaHood told reporters after his speech about the prospects for approval of a new transportation measure in the House.

“I don’t think they know,” he continued.

The House had considered a bill that $260 billion transportation that would have provided funding for road projects for the next five years. But the measure was pulled by House leadership amid objection to its spending levels from both conservatives and liberals, who argued that it spent too much and too little on highway programs respectively.

“America is one big pothole,” LaHood said during his speech.

“We need a bill to fix up our roads and bridges to get them in a state of good repair,” he continued. “We hope the House comes back next week and takes a look at the Senate bill and either pass that bill or come up with one of their own.”

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