The growing outrage over the $260 billion House transportation bill is rightly placed.
Simply put, House Republicans are up to their usual feckless tricks—pushing their political agenda and kowtowing to special interests, mainly Big Oil —with a skewed and totally inappropriate vision of transportation priorities for the nation.
A New York Times editorial blasted the measure, HR 7, as “uniquely terrible,” and a host of other organizations, including the National Resources Defense Council, The Energy Collective and ThinkProgress joined the chorus of discontent. Even Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican by the way, called it the “worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”
The NRDC’s Rob Perks said House Republican leaders loaded up “their version of a transportation bill with an ideological wish list that will prevent Congress from passing a measure that could provide real transportation improvements.”
He said the NRDC “strongly opposes the legislation because it is a blatant bait-and-switch to boost drilling off our shores and even in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But another big problem with this partisan ‘poison pill’ bill is that it essentially declares war on public transportation.”
The bill would open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, including as the Times points out, environmentally fragile areas that have long been off limits. It’s just another bite at the Republicans’ long-standing “drill baby, drill” apple.
The measure also would put financing for mass transportation on the extreme back burner, scarcely in the kitchen, by making financing less certain and ending a 30-year agreement—dating from the Reagan era—that guarantees mass transit a one-fifth share of the fuel taxes and other user fees in the highway trust fund.
Eliminating a dedicated funding stream for mass transit would hit low-income people, and especially low-income minorities, who rely on public transportation to get to work, go to school and live their lives. The bill “attacks anyone who rides transit, walks, or bikes by swiping funding for those options,” says Deron Lovaas of The Energy Collective.
Even though its title is the high-sounding “American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act,” HR 7 is really a huge gift to the Republicans’ masters in the fossil-fuel industry. It’s a singularly partisan and ugly view of how jobs and infrastructure should be addressed.
A transportation bill that reauthorizes desperately needed highway, transit and highway safety programs is sorely needed, but not this fiscally reckless and environmentally damaging version of reality.
Instead of showing leadership and paying even a modicum of attention to the needs of all Americans, the House Republicans have once again hijacked the political debate, proved they are devoid of coherent ideas and are holding the nation’s transportation system hostage to their and Big Oil’s narrow interests.
[Image credit: Exit islands from above by 1Sock via Flickr cc]