The last thing the president will do during this hot, lazy recess week is to sign the transportation bill. He’ll be surrounded by construction workers, as this bill was always as much about jobs as it was about setting policy, and by college students, since the bill was combined with a provision keeping student loan rates low. You can watch it live on C-SPAN.
The group Transit Riders for Public Transportation is calling on President Obama to veto the bill. While countless organizations have strongly criticized the bill — at times, even risking their relationships with key lawmakers by doing so — this is the only one I’ve seen actually demand a veto.
In its statement, Transit Riders for Public Transportation tries to hold Obama to President Clinton’s 1994 executive order on Environmental Justice, which the group says is violated by the new bill:
Known as the “highway bill,” this legislation threatens public health and the environment in communities of color and systemically blocks transit riders from benefiting from the majority of this federal funding. This new version unfortunately perpetuates the 80/20 split in funding (80 percent for road infrastructure and 20 percent for mass transit) and fails to allow transit agencies the flexibility to use those limited dollars to maintain service, despite desperate need. At the same time, this bill blatantly guts the National Environmental Policy Act, which offers the only meaningful opportunity for communities to have a voice in major capital construction projects that will directly impact their lives.
They make a decent point, but you can still expect to see the president sign the bill this afternoon at 4:55.
When the House and Senate passed the bill last Friday, they also enacted a one-week extension to allow the 600-page bill to be “enrolled” on parchment. (You didn’t expect the president to take his special signing pen to ordinary 20 pound white copy paper, did you?)
Once Obama signs it, MAP-21 becomes law for the next 27 months. According to transportation reformers, the work on crafting a new and better bill begins right about now.