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House Won’t Take Up Senate Surface Transportation Bill Before Expiration Date

The Senate’s transportation bill, which passed earlier this week, is more bipartisan than good. The bill lasts for two years rather than the 5 years requested by the White House, and it funds at about 2/3 the level in the President’s budget request, which itself is relatively low according to infrastructure experts. That said, it begins to actually intelligently tackle infrastructure policy, albeit with limited means, and it’s certainly preferable to the eight stopgap bills that have been the sum total of Congress’ work on this policy since 2009.

It looks as if we’re moving toward stopgap bill number 9.

The House will not take up the Senate’s transportation bill and its own version won’t hit the floor until mid-April at the earliest, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aides told industry officials Thursday morning.

Democrats on both sides of the Capitol are ramping up their pressure on the House after the Senate approved a two-year, $109 billion bill that garnered votes from nearly half of the Republican caucus […]

The general game plan over the next few weeks, as laid out by aides: continue rallying and gauging support for a five-year bill when members return to town next week. An extension of the current law, slated to expire April 1, would hit the floor sometime during the March 26 week.

I thought we had been through this already. John Boehner tried rallying support for the House version of the bill, and found himself unable to do so. He resignedly said he would put the Senate bill on the floor, because he ran out of time and options. So now he’s going back on his word, which isn’t worth too much these days.

Nevertheless, the practical consequence of this is a ninth straight short-term surface transportation bill. I’m not a big believer in the confidence fairy or the power of certainty, but infrastructure requires long-term planning, and with short-term funding from the federal government, you cannot possibly make that planning at the local level. In this case, uncertainty at the federal level absolutely costs jobs.

What a mess.

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David Dayen

David Dayen