Senate to Take Up Mysterious ‘Jobs Bill’ — Is Infrastructure in the Mix?

The notion of a "front-loaded" infrastructure bill to counter the rising U.S. unemployment rate has been circulating in Washington for some time, though solid details on such a measure have yet to emerge.

harry_reid_rotunda2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (Photo: LV City Life)
The talk took a new turn yesterday, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) told fellow Democrats that he would call up a "jobs bill" before the end of the year. From The Hill:
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told The Hill that Reid (D-Nev.) made the announcement about a new jobs bill at the Senate Democrats’ weekly lunch.

Reid said he was looking at an initiative focused on job creation “and that our caucus will take it up,” Cardin said.

Reid didn’t specify what would be in the bill, but he said that it was going to be “one of the priorities” for the Senate, Cardin added.

The political urgency behind Democrats' job-creation push is obvious; the "generic ballot" question, a polling staple that measures support for congressional re-elections, shifted in favor of the GOP today for the first time in months. 

But what's less clear is how open senators are to the perspective of Reid's No. 2, Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has emphasized the importance of new transportation spending, and whether any new spending would be targeted to repair the nation's aging roads and bridges before building new capacity.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) found earlier this year [PDF] that crumbling, rickety roads cost the average American about $400 a year in repair and maintenance, with the average city dweller paying nearly double that amount. Still, a "fix-it-first" rule for transportation spending is in place in only some states, such as New Jersey and Maryland, and was shot down during this year's stimulus debate.

Will transportation reformers and environmental groups publicly press for a "fix-it-first" approach in the Democrats' jobs bill, once it materializes? That may be the million-dollar (or billion-dollar) question.