By Representative Costello
Let's be honest - the House highway bill is headed toward a dead end. The formal debate will stretch out for a few weeks while the Republican majority works to get the votes to pass a bill that will never become law. While the policy is bad - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called it the worst highway bill he has seen in 35 years -- it is the "my way or the highway" process that has put it on a road to nowhere. As this exercise shows, sometimes breaking with established norms is a terrible mistake.
I have served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during my entire tenure in Congress, and even as the House turned more partisan, the Committee prided itself on bi-partisanship. While we did not agree on everything, Republicans and Democrats worked together to advance the infrastructure needs of the country, routinely conferring on major legislation and working out as many issues in possible in advance. As the saying goes, "there are no Republican or Democratic roads."
H.R. 7 is a departure from that philosophy, and it does not need to be. While there is a great deal of bi-partisan support for streamlining transportation programs and the approval process for projects, the bill text was presented to Democrats on the Committee less than a week before we marked it up, with no substantive input before then. The bill needlessly jeopardizes transit funding, severely cuts state formula funds and would result in significant job loss, and undermines safety - not exactly a blueprint for bi-partisanship. This approach stands in stark contrast to the Senate, where Senators Boxer and Inhofe have stressed the collaborative process used to produce their bill.
Pretending that H.R. 7 is a real attempt to address the infrastructure needs of the nation, rather than the message piece that it is -- further reduces public confidence in our ability to legislate. There is still time to work together on the highway bill, but we need a new map to get to where we want to go.