Senator Tom Colburn (R-OK) suddenly backed off his objection to the FAA bill this afternoon allowing it to come up for a vote. The bill passed 92-6. Despite the strong bi-partisan support for the bill, one Republican Senator had it bottled up thwarting the will of 92 other Senators. Had he not abruptly removed his objection, the FAA would have to close again Friday. Senator Colburn might have been taken to the woodshed over his move.
As reported by AP, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate vote marked “a good day for the American people, About 2 million people are breathing a sigh of relief because they’re going to have jobs on Monday.”
Democrats did have to beat down an attempt by Senator Rand Paul (RTP-KY) to cut spending on transportation. This is ironic given that two major bridges that connect his state with Indiana and Ohio are closed due to structural defects. These bridges closing are inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of commuters and disrupting commerce.
A lot of inconvenience is better than one death like occurred in Minneapolis when another crumbling bridge collapsed.
According to AP,Colburn backed off when he got a commitment from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that she would “reform” the section of the bill that gave Colburn heartburn. He was opposed to spending money on landscaping. That amounts to about 2% of the transportation budget, but that 2% nearly killed funding of 100% of the budget.
The bill extends the FAA’s operating authority through January. It expired at midnight Friday. It also extended authority through March for highway, transit and rail programs, as well as the federal gasoline and diesel taxes. The federal gas tax pays up to 90% of the cost of all construction and repair on Interstate and federal highways.
Imbedded in the bill as well was funding for FEMA for disasters from floods, tornados, hurricanes, and fires tat have ravaged the country this summer.
Push now is for a long term transportation funding bill
Transportation supporters, state highway departments, and local governments will now focus their attention to getting a long term transportation bill passed. Transportation is something that needs a long term financial commitment because it takes years to acquire right of way, design, do environmental studies, and build or widen highways.
The President is also pushing for additional spending for highways as part of the American Jobs Act now before Congress. Clearly, the long term bill and the infrastructure bill will be lumped together for consideration in some way. Republicans, however, are dead set against any infrastructure spending. Many will try and make further spending cuts in the long term bill. Rand Paul tried to do that today.
So, 2 million workers still have jobs (for now), but it is unclear what will happen t the crumbling bridges.
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