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Federal Transportation Bill

Mica: Why Are the Democrats Picking On Me?

3:26 PM EDT on July 12, 2011

We were sad to see that Rep. Mica was sad to see that the Democrats were sad to see that the House transportation proposal is an unmitigated disaster for transportation policy.

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As Alice reported last week, Democrats on the committee called the GOP plan a “road to ruin” and “a cruel imitation of a proposal.” They say the low funding levels will cripple the transportation industry and undermine the economic recovery. Clearly, they are concerned that the plan promoted by their own committee contradicts their priorities and values.

But Mica says it’s just a “personal and partisan attack.”

“Nearly every proposal detailed in the preliminary outline was adopted with input gathered during bipartisan hearings and meetings across the country,” Mica said in a statement.

The listening tour the committee embarked upon was impressive, and they heard from scores of stakeholders. But many of those stakeholders pleaded for a higher gas tax or another mechanism to bring in additional revenues, in order to avoid exactly the scenario that Mica’s proposal creates: the starvation of the transportation sector.

Many also advocated for greater performance measures, to ensure that, if the pot is going to be smaller, at least the money is used to its maximum potential. But the House bill does away with several discretionary programs, preferring formulas, and delegates decision-making to the states, rather than set national goals and priorities.

Some stakeholders urged more for transit, Amtrak, walkability, and bicycle programs. Those calls also went unheeded – the bill eliminates any federally guaranteed minimum funding for bike-ped programs, cuts transit funding by 33 percent, and cuts Amtrak’s funding by a quarter.

So, yes, the committee held listening sessions – but did they listen? And are Republicans listening now, as Democrats assail the proposal and pledge to vote it down? Here’s what Mica has to say:

It is disappointing that some have taken such an unproductive approach to such an important matter, even before participating in preparing final draft language to present as a committee.

Even though there may be disagreement at this time, for the sake of our nation we must act in a positive manner to move this legislation forward as soon as possible.

But that’s the thing: the Democrats don’t want to move this legislation forward as soon as possible.

They want a reauthorization, but their vision is diametrically opposed to the one the Republicans laid out. They’re saying the committee, which for years was known as one of the most cooperative in the Congress, has suddenly been sharply divided along partisan lines, with the majority Republicans leaving the Democrats out in the cold on major decisions.

What Mica calls an “unproductive approach” can also be seen as simple dissent, with one party pushing back against what it sees as the excesses and errors of the other. Not to defend partisanship, here, but given the fact that groups from around the country have expressed alarm over Mica’s proposal, is it really so bad that they have representatives in Congress willing to fight for them?

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