House Speaker John Boehner spoke to reporters yesterday morning. His message: “Republicans Relentlessly Focused on Jobs.”
“House Republicans want to get a highway bill done,” he said. “We want a bill, and our colleagues are working toward producing a bill. We just want to make sure it’s a bill that includes real reforms, to ensure that taxpayer funds are paying for legitimate projects that support economic activity – not planting more flowers and beautification projects around the country.”
Of course, Boehner is hiding behind the “no flower” argument to mask the House GOP’s real objective — dismantling the Senate transportation bill’s provisions for street safety programs, which are funded from the same pot as “scenic beautification” projects. The GOP’s true target — the Cardin-Cochran amendment — gives local agencies control over funds from programs to make streets safer for walking and biking, including Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements. Those funds go toward transportation projects that save people money, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and combat obesity.
Not only does that money go a long way in terms of building infrastructure and getting results, it also produces more construction jobs per dollar than highway spending. So maybe Boehner is not really focused on jobs — “Relentlessly Focused on Fossil Fuels” is more like it. In his comments, Boehner added that the House GOP also supports “bipartisan, job-creating initiatives like the Keystone pipeline” — which is expected to create about 6,000 jobs. (Hardly enough to have a real impact on the nation’s unemployment, when last month’s job growth of 69,000 was considered extremely weak.)
Soon after the speaker’s press conference, the House passed the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, 248 to 163, to gut the Clean Air Act and open more public lands to oil drilling.
As we all anxiously await word of what will be included in the conference committee’s final report, Boehner’s veiled attack on street safety programs signals that the House GOP is also “relentlessly focused” on preventing local governments from reducing the death toll on their streets. The speaker’s remarks came just before Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. John Mica released a statement saying they’ve “moved forward” and hope to have a bill done by the June 30 deadline. Note the complete disregard for yesterday’s (admittedly non-binding) instruction to finish work by today.
Meanwhile, the House also voted 260-138 yesterday to insist on the inclusion of the coal ash deregulation provision in the final conference report — just another way House Republicans are putting their zeal to damage the environment before their interest in creating jobs.