House Transpo Bill Stalled In a Frenzy of Fingerpointing

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(Reporting by Janet Babin at WNYC, New York, Matthew Peddie at WMFE, Orlando, and Todd Zwillich at the Capitol in Washington, DC)

It has devolved to this.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica says the house transportation bill isn’t moving forward because there aren’t earmarks – “people aren’t being bought off for projects.” He’s telling Florida reporters that “bureaucrats in ivory towers in Washington,” just don’t understand Florida’s needs.

Congressman Bob Turner, a New York City Republican, says party leaders pressured him to support the bill as written – and that he won’t, unless transit provisions are restored.

And Speaker John Boehner says he’ll only amend the bill to bolster GOP support – from Republicans who say it costs too much.

Somehow, out of all of this, a bill is supposed to emerge.

The bill ran into trouble almost immediately by paying for transportation with fees from widespread oil and gas drilling, allowing for heavier trucks, and stripping out transit funding from the highway trust fund.

Opposition, fueled by an indignant Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, has mounted since the bill was first introduced. This week, Speaker Boehner tried twice to salvage the bill, first by splitting it in three, then by delaying a vote to drum up support.

But even Republicans are openly revolting.

New York Congressman Bob Turner (NY-09) said in a telephone interview his party pressured him to vote for the bill, but he wouldn't do it. "I think they might of thought that it would be very nice that I rolled over, but that didn't seem likely," he said.

"The [Transportation] Committee doesn't have a lot of metropolitan Congressman on it, so that might have been why it got a little off to begin with," said Turner.

Mica has another explanation.
“I would have had it done 6 months ago,” he told reporters in Washington Wednesday night. In the past - “most of the bills – the chairman, the ranking member, got so much discretionary money to give to earmarks. And then once they gave the earmark, you never heard another peep out of the members. Here we’re discussing actual policy and people aren’t being bought off for projects.”

In his district, Mica is piling on: “I don’t think that bureaucrats in ivory towers in Washington know what’s best for Florida, or for our communities," he told WMFE "so we’re trying to cut out some of the overheads and the coming on bended knees to Washington to plead for transportation dollars and send it directly back to the states.”
As for Boehner?

“We believe that we need to have fundamental change to get the government barriers out of the way to produce jobs, both in the energy area and in the infrastructure area. So we’re going to continue to move down that path.”
Translation: don’t expect him to remove the drilling or transit provisions. Do expect him to scale down the bill.

More, after the President’s day break.