The No. 2 House Democrat ripped Republicans Tuesday for looking for another patch job for the Highway Trust Fund before the current patch expires at the end of May.
Another short-term patch would buy the GOP time to come up with a long-term solution to pay for transportation and infrastructure projects around the country, but House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer says the GOP has taken long enough with no results. “We’ve now had … months to do that,” the Maryland Democrat said at his pen and pad briefing with reporters Tuesday morning. “It is irresponsible that we have not come to an agreement.”
Hoyer said he didn’t fault Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with the lack of action since the existing extension was enacted last August.
“The leadership should have given [Shuster] the authority, and the support, to accomplish, well prior to May, a long-term reauthorization of the highway bill that is paid for and funded and we should have come to an agreement on how to do that.”
No decision has been made, Hoyer continued, as to what Democrats would do if and when they’re confronted with a bill to float the Highway Trust Fund a few more months. He left open the possibility that they could rebuff the measure.
“I can tell you,” he said, “Democrats are united, unanimous, on the proposition that a short-term patch … didn’t work. There’s no prediction the short-term patch is gonna work again.”
When the House voted last year on the current, $10.8 billion Highway Trust Fund extension, all but 45 Democrats voted “no.” They were protesting the House GOP’s eleventh-hour maneuver to jam the Senate, at that time still controlled by Democrats, into accepting a 10-month patch.
A shorter time frame would have created more of an onus to get a bigger, better deal. Senate Democrats also wanted to still have sway over negotiations, fearing — and rightly so — they would lose their majority come November.
Today, except for those conservative Republicans who believe transportation funding should be the responsibility of the states, most members on both sides of the aisle agree Congress must reach a multi-year highway deal to bring some certainty to key infrastructure initiatives nationwide, not to mention protect jobs that rely on those initiatives.
What’s stymied efforts in the past in part has been tremendous disagreement over how to pay for such a deal, with certain maneuvers out of the question — taking money from postal service retirement plans and raising the gas tax among them.
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