Bunning Throws in the Towel, Congress Restores Transport Funding
Workers at the U.S. DOT and on transportation projects around the country are back on the job today after Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) lost his politically hazardous battle against a 30-day extension of federal infrastructure law and unemployment benefits.
But while Republicans sought to distance themselves from Bunning’s five-day stand against the $10 billion measure, sending Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) yesterday to ask the Kentuckian to yield, 18 of Bunning’s fellow GOP senators ultimately voted with him to continue withholding federal transport funding unless its cost was offset by budget cuts elsewhere.
The extension passed on a 78-19 vote. Four members of Republican leadership voted with Bunning: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (TN), Conference Vice Chairman John Thune (SD), and campaign committee chief John Cornyn (TX).
"This week we saw the shutdown of
many important highway and bridge projects, which caused great concern in many
of our states," Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said in a statement after the vote. "Now I look forward to a longer-term transportation
extension with the legislation that has already passed the Senate, and which I
believe will pass the House this week."
The legislation Boxer referred to, a $15 billion bill that would keep the nation’s highway trust fund solvent until 2011, could get a vote in the House this week. But much depends on how Democratic leaders act to ease the objections of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who want to see more infrastructure spending added to the Senate package, and the Blue Dogs, who have called for more revenue offsets to the bill.