Last fall, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee together linked arms to unanimously approve a new federal transportation bill.
The committee’s liberal chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and conservative ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, alike cheered the ability of the legislation, known as S. 1813, to put Americans back to work nationwide.
Sadly, that Kumbaya moment just couldn’t last.
Now that it’s moved from committee to the Senate floor, even this rare bill to achieve extraordinary bipartisan support has fallen victim to partisan sniping.
Boxer complained Monday about an effort by Republican senators to introduce controversial, unrelated amendments to the highway bill, which would authorize the government to spend $109 billion over two years on roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.
“We’re trying to get out of this recession. This is a jobs bill that’s just waiting to happen. We have myself and Senator Inhofe as partners in this effort. We want to get to this highway bill,” she says. “Listen, we have to put aside these wedge issues, these ‘gotcha’ issues. We have business after business after business that is struggling. This is a bipartisan bill. This will save 1.8 million jobs and create an additional million jobs.”
Meanwhile, Inhofe himself was busy making sure President Obama couldn’t take any credit for the transportation bill, if it were to pass.
“The bottom line is that the President’s involvement is detrimental to our bipartisan efforts. Whenever the President gets involved in transportation infrastructure, he turns it in to a partisan, political issue,” Inhofe says. “Remember back to his $787 billion failed stimulus bill, the one he claimed was an infrastructure bill? Despite all of his talk, only 3% went for infrastructure, 3% went for defense, and the rest went to liberal social engineering.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.