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2009 Transportation Bill

Inhofe Blasts Transport Bill Inaction That Comes From His Own Party

The Senate environment committee's senior Republican, Jim Inhofe (OK), delivered a stern warning today to any lawmakers who would force another short-term extension of federal transportation programs, which are set to expire at midnight Saturday.

medium.htmSen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) (Photo: NewsOK)

"We have bridges in Oklahoma that are crumbling and falling down. People could be hurt," Inhofe told a talk radio station in his home state, as reported by the local Associated Press. "We have to do this. ... Any government that can spend $700 billion to bail out banks shouldn't be having the problems that we're having."

Oklahoma is far from the only state that faces urgent problems caused by decaying infrastructure. A commercially vital bridge over Lake Champlain was shut down last week when the New York state DOT found weaknesses in its supports, cutting off a large Vermont dairy farm from its own milking cows.

But Inhofe did not mention the leading source of the impasse over a longer-term extension of the 2005 transportation bill: his own party.

The Oklahoman told CQ earlier this week that "at least two Republicans objected" to unanimously approving six months' worth of funding,
"and that there is not enough floor time to finish a bill this week under
normal procedure."

A similar situation played out in the wee hours of last month, when Republican senators blocked a plan to use unspent money from the $700 billion banking bailout -- which Inhofe voted against -- to prevent the cancellation of more than $8 billion in transportation contracts.

As Streetsblog Capitol Hill reported yesterday, barring a last-minute agreement to take up the six-month extension, the federal transportation program is likely to be extended under a "continuing resolution" that lasts until Dec. 18 or a three-month extension, already approved in the House, that lasts until Dec. 31.

Late Update: Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey pointed out that Democrats have had troubles of their own reconciling competing visions for the transportation bill, particularly House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar's (D-MN) resistance to the Senate's proposed six-month extension.

The difficulty in securing unanimous consent among senators suggests that Democratic leaders may need to dedicate floor time to any transportation plan not included as part of a continuing resolution that is necessary to keep the government funded. Stay tuned for more on this in a forthcoming post ...

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