Despite a growing awareness among conservatives that walking and biking are causes worth backing, Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to condemn bike-ped programs as wasteful "pork". The GOP’s latest potshots at sustainable transportation come during debate over a health care bill that focuses mainly on insurance and hospitals, but also includes a public health grant program aimed at encouraging exercise.
Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), senior Republican on the health committee, slammed the legislation for seeking to "pave sidewalks, build jungle gyms" and expand bike access to help improve public health:
We need to root out the waste, fraud and abuse
that is driving up health care costs – not create a whole slew of new
It’s unclear whether Enzi knows that the federal government already has a program to encourage biking and walking, nor whether he’s aware of their demonstrated public health benefits. But his talking point is already migrating to other Republicans, who have twisted the health care bill’s proposed "community transformation" grants into a big-government bogeyman.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) picked up Enzi’s baton today in a speech against the health bill:
indications are that it will direct billions of dollars to things like having
the government build sidewalks and government-subsidized farmers markets.
idea here is to use tax dollars to encourage healthier lifestyles. But at a
time when Americans are buried under medical bills and frightened about losing
the coverage they have, farmers markets and sidewalks aren’t the reforms
they have in mind.