Is a Bigger Transportation Bill — This Year — Back on the Table?

That’s the suggestion that an anonymous "Senate aide" made to Bloomberg News this morning, recounting a possible White House change of heart as mounting job losses stoke new debate over a second stimulus bill:

Administration officials have told allies in Congress that
a broader transportation bill, and extensions of a homebuyer tax
credit and unemployment benefits are all on the table, a Senate
aide said.

Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who chairs the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that is tasked with
holding the party’s House majority in next year’s midterm
elections, said additional transportation funding would be
popular among Democratic lawmakers.

“If there was to be another round of stimulus, additional
infrastructure would be at the top of the list,” Van Hollen
said in an interview. Money for roads, transit and bridges would
be a priority.

It’s well-known to the Obama administration that members of the House would prefer passing a new transportation bill sooner than later, but the president’s advisers have been pushing hard to hold off on a long-term measure until there’s a reliable way to pay for it. With the economy still lagging, however, selling more infrastructure investments as a "second stimulus" could create the political room to give more to transit (and roads) — likely as deficit spending.

What remains to be seen is whether the administration will publicly get behind more transportation funding in the shorter term, and whether any new plan would still be structured as an 18-month "extension" of existing law, with extra money added in.

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