For more than a month, the U.S. House has had the opportunity to save 3 million jobs by agreeing on a version of a transportation bill already approved by the Senate. Instead, House Republicans have stalled the effort and insisted on a series of conditions as the June 30 deadline looms. Sound familiar? The transportation bill is just the latest example of how obstructionist tactics and partisan gridlock have paralyzed Washington, and it has to get moving before jobs are lost.
The Senate's version of the transportation bill, passed in March, remains the best option. It makes a substantial investment in road and bridge projects, as well as mass transit. All told, it would grant $109 billion to states that have been starved for transportation funds in recent years. Most importantly, the bill's approval would keep 3 million construction jobs from evaporating during prime construction season. But House Republicans have stymied efforts to come up with a similar bill, demanding add-ons such as approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Disagreement is part of the political process. But after weeks of inaction, Republican lawmakers seem to have lost sight of the bill's main thrust: jobs in an economic downturn.
With the deadline looming a week from today, the likelihood that a comprehensive bill will be passed is dimming. A stopgap measure, like the temporary fix that ended last summer's debt crisis, is becoming more likely. The problem? A Band-Aid solution would save the jobs but doom long-term projects across the country. A lack of confidence in federal funding would keep states from embarking on new construction projects, and unemployment in the construction sector would remain high. This country's infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and improvement.
This is the sort of thing that drives voters crazy about Washington. The Senate bill is viable, yet House Republicans are blocking it and making demands unrelated to transportation. Elections have consequences, and this is another issue that voters should remember in November.