Congress Finance

Disaster in the Senate

Murray Amendment Fails; Boxer-Inhofe Amendment May Move $50 Billion to Highways Only; $5 Billion for General Transportation May be Converted to Highways Only; New Tax Relief for Car Consumption

After today’s dramatic failure of the Murray/Feinstein amendment, which would have given $25 billion more to transportation projects in general and $5 billion more for transit specifically, I didn’t think matters could get much worse, but they’ve gone terribly wrong in almost every way possible.

Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) will introduce an amendment later today giving $50 billion to highways alone. No money for transit, and a lot of money going directly to states that will spend their funds on highways we don’t need.

Meanwhile, Senator Boxer is also coming close to endorsing a plan by Kit Bond (R-MO) to transfer $5.5 billion that would be for any type of surface transportation to highways alone. Hello?

Perhaps the cherry on the cake was the passage by voice vote an amendment by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that will allow consumers to get a tax rebate on payments on car loans.

That’s right, folks. Our Senate is making it very clear that any investment in transit in this stimulus will be pushed to the back of the bandwagon… even though infrastructure construction has been proven over and over as the most reliable actual stimulus.

Both Democrats and Republicans are at fault here. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted against the motion that would have made it possible for a vote on the Murray amendment. She claimed that she was attempting to help get Republican buy-in on the stimulus bill, because Republicans don’t want to agree to any increase in the size of the legislation.

But what’s the point of getting Republican buy-in if it means gutting the bill of the issues that matter? Where is the value given to green technologies if we’re willing to increase funds dramatically for automobile consumption and road construction?

The Senate’s stimulus bill is turning into a mess. Let’s hope that there are significant changes over the next few days… otherwise, I’ll be hoping for a strong pro-transit House contingent in the Conference Committee.

6 replies on “Disaster in the Senate”

“But what’s the point of getting Republican buy-in if it means gutting the bill of the issues that matter?”

And what evidence is there that you’ll even get any Republican buy-in by watering down the bill?

Where are you getting your information? I am hearing a very different story from reading the amendment to HR-1. See below:

Summary of EPW Amendment to HR 1,

the American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009

* The amendment Senators Boxer and Inhofe have been working on
would increase highway, transit and water (clean water and drinking
water) infrastructure funding in the stimulus by up to $50 billion if
other funding provided for in the bill is not used quickly.

* This amendment would redirect up to $50 billion of funding that
would otherwise expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2009 in addition (if
necessary) to unobligated balances from slower-spending programs
appropriated throughout the stimulus package that have not been
obligated within a full year after enactment.

* A maximum of $50 billion would be redistributed by the President
to states for use on highways, transit and water projects, based on a
priority list of needs as ready to go to contract within 120 days. This
list would be provided by each state and certified by the Governor,
based on priorities that are the product of ongoing state and local
planning programs.

* Eligibility has been expanded far beyond highways alone. A
broad array of projects beyond highways and bridges can be funded
including transit and environmental mitigation for example. States and
localities should give special consideration to projects that will bring
the conditions of roads, bridges, and other transportation system
elements up to standard, will result in high, immediate employment, will
increase the energy independence of the United States, and will provide
long-term economic benefits.

* This amendment would provide additional funding for the clean
water and drinking water state revolving funds and would maintain the
15% set-aside for green infrastructure included in the underlying bill.
This ensures that states will be able to implement green projects to
reduce energy consumption and improve water efficiency with any funding
provided through the amendment.

* This amendment takes money that is otherwise not going to
quickly stimulate the economy and moves it to a program that can get
people working faster.

* Funds are moved to highway, transit and water infrastructure
investments under this amendment because they improve our nation’s
infrastructure and can be under contract in an expedited manner.

Yesterday, I was under the impression that this amendment would simply add $50 billion to the bill, but turns out that this amendment is the same as the Amendment #169 discussed in today’s post.

It will take $5 billion from general transportation use and move it to highways only. This is the important point.

The $50 billion number is simply a conjecture – it assumes that there will be money left over from other programs within a year, a highly unlikely fact considering the extreme needs for funds universally. Second, it would pass those funds to state departments of transportation, which, sadly enough, are far more likely to spend the money on roads than on transit or rail. That said, it is conceivable that some states will choose to use this extra money for non-automobile uses.

Thanks for the clarification.

Here’s info about the bill.

They still don’t get it and Obama seems to be just another “Yes Sir” politician. The problem is, most in Congress are out-of-touch with the needs of the public, they are chauffeured around by their special interest sponsors (Daschle). Tom must look out the car window while driving on a highway and say to himself “so, this is what the little people want more of?” , and we get more miles of asphalt while China builds magnetic levitation systems, high-tech trams, subway systems, light-rail systems, hybrid vehicles and entirely “green” cities. The problem my fellow citizens, are the out-of-touch creeps running our nation! And now, the phony leader we just elected seems to have no clue either.

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