Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
C'mon, Mr. Secretary, now tell us how you really feel.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has already called the House Transportation bill "the most partisan ever" and the "worst bill in decades," heaped more criticism on the GOP-sponsored bill.
"The House has a lousy bill. It takes us back to the dark ages," LaHood, a former Republican Congressman, said on a conference call with reporters to discuss President Obama's proposed 2013 budget. "It doesn't reflect the transportation values of the country."
LaHood said Republican Congress members have already started to defect. "I was delighted when I read that Republican members from Illinois said they would not support [House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John] Mica's bill unless transit funding was put back in... They were stunned at the way this was done."
A number of GOP house members around the country have objected to the bill's provision to no longer support transit from the gas tax, but put it in the general fund, instead.
"When I served on the transportation committee, we passed two transportation bills with more than 400 votes in the House and more than 80 in the Senate."
Mica "has heard from his members, both moderates and conservative. He's got people on all sides saying they're not going to vote for it. Not one Democrat will vote for [it]. Not one. If you get a handful of conservatives and a handful of moderates, there's no way for it to get to 218."
LaHood's remarks came as he was touting the President's own $476 billion surface transportation bill, part of the 2013 budget. That proposal contains continued funding for high speed rail ($47 billion), $50 billion in "immediate investments" to "improve America's raods, bridges, transit systems, border crossings, railways, and runways." And it would continue funding for TIGER grants, which have been heavily criticized by the House GOP.
LaHood said despite the fact that both the House and the Senate are expected to vote this week on their respective -- and far-apart -- transportation bills, "we're all at the starting gate. The House is considering their bill, the Senate is considering their bill, we're putting out our bill. "
As for the house bill "Lookit -- it's just a lousy bill, it hollows out all of our safety plans. It's a lousy bill."