House GOP Yanks Transportation Earmark Requests — For How Long?

When House Republicans voted recently to renounce all earmarks for this year, the move appeared to one-up Democrats’ pledge to forgo earmarks to for-profit entities in 2010 — a vow that would not extend to transportation projects.

large_steve_latourette.jpgRep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) (Photo: Cleveland.com)

In fact, the congressional newspaper Roll Call reported today that GOP members of the House infrastructure committee have begun walking back their earmark requests for the next long-term federal transportation bill, leaving the panel’s leaders with a smaller pool of local road, transit, and bridge projects to evaluate.

But the devil is in the details, as one Republican revealed to the newspaper (emphasis mine):

[The earmark removal] means that if a highway bill or water resources bill does move through
Congress this year, House Republicans may be the only Members who can’t
get a road widened or a drainage ditch dug in their district. …

Rep.
Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), who submitted four dozen project requests
for the highway bill, said Friday, “The [GOP] Conference, for the reason that
they think the current system is broken, they’ve decided to take a
little rest” from earmarks. But LaTourette said it seems unlikely the
highway bill or the WRDA bill is going to pass this year anyway
, and
“next year we are going to put in place something that makes the people
who think that earmarks in general are bad feel better … and we will
be back to earmarks with transparency.”

Few in the capital would dispute LaTourette’s prediction that lawmakers’ opposition to a gas tax hike and reluctance to pursue alternative financing options spell further delays in new federal legislation.

But if the GOP reinstates its earmark requests after this fall’s midterm elections, just in time for the next transportation bill to come to a vote in spring 2011, the party’s time-limited ban may well backfire by alienating its conservative base.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Congress Reluctant to Shine Light on Transportation Earmarks

|
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is about to unveil a massive bill that will re-authorize federal transportation programs for the next six years. The bill will also include funding for a large number of "earmarks," the congressional pet projects that can include everything from bike trails to Bridges to Nowhere. Earmarks grew largely in […]

Rep. LaTourette Tells Transit Advocates to Ask Congress for What They Need

|
Transit officials spent the day on Capitol Hill yesterday, meeting with Congressional offices as part of the American Public Transportation Association’s legislative conference. Transportation Committee Chair John Mica suggested they ask members for a six-year bill. Secretary Ray LaHood urged them to ask for support for President Obama’s “big, bold vision” for transportation. Rep. Steve […]

Don’t Look Now, But the House Amtrak Bill Actually Has Some Good Ideas

|
Tomorrow, the House Transportation Committee will consider a bill that changes the nation’s policies on passenger rail. The proposal, while it includes some cuts, is a departure from the senseless vendetta many House Republicans have waged against Amtrak in the past. The National Association of Railroad Passengers, NARP, says the plan contains “commonsense regulatory and […]

House Transportation Bill Too Extreme for Some Republicans

|
The House GOP’s transportation bill is legislation only Big Oil can love. By eviscerating dedicated transit funds, killing programs that support safe streets, and linking transportation funding to oil drilling in the Arctic, the bill has managed to alienate everyone from environmental advocates to the ultra-conservative Club for Growth. So there’s a chance that House […]