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Federal Transportation Bill

House Passes Transportation Extension Unanimously

2:48 PM EDT on September 13, 2011

Well, that wasn't so hard.

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The GOP-led House just approved a six-month extension of the transportation law. After about 45 minutes of debate, the chair called for a voice vote, and no one objected.

During the debate, members bickered over whether the FAA shutdown was the Democrats' fault or the Republicans' fault; whether the stimulus had enough money for infrastructure and whether it was spent well; whether it's appropriate to cut infrastructure spending. But no one rose to object to a clean extension right now.

I would be remiss if I didn't reprint, word for word, Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio's impassioned - and highly partisan - speech in favor of higher overall spending levels. In the past, he's often argued for more spending specifically for transit, but it appears he's altered his message to appeal to the highway people too. Note that he's asking not just for funding levels higher than the House's idea of a 30 percent cut, but higher even than this extension, which keeps spending at current levels.

Listen along. The complete audio of DeFazio's speech is here; transcribed below are some highlights.

Unfortunately, at the current levels of investment, we're not even keeping up with our mid-20th century surface transportation system. Just think, before the interstate highways, what a disconnected country this was! And guess what, we're headed back there. We are not investing enough to maintain the Eisenhower legacy of the national highway system. We have 150,000 bridges that need replacement or repair; 40 percent of the pavement needs not just resurfacing but underlayment; $70 billion backlog on our aged transit systems. And that's just to give us an updated and state-of-good-repair 20th-century transportation infrastructure. We need a 21st-century transportation infrastructure, which is going to require more investment.

And for the life of me, I don’t get it on that side of the aisle. You got this guy over there, the Republican leader, Cantor, [saying] "we might take the tax cuts from Obama, those return almost 80 cents on every dollar borrowed, but ugh, that other stuff! Spending money, that's like stimulus! Building bridges, repairing highways, repairing and rebuilding transit systems, having a new 21st-century system for our planes to navigate more efficiently in the sky, with fewer delays and less fuel consumed: that is bad!" according to Eric Cantor.

But "oh the tax cuts, yeah we're for tax cuts, we'll give the people their money back and then they'll take care of those problems." We’ll pass the hat to rebuild the bridges and the transit systems. We'll pass the hat to have a new aviation system for navigation.

Come on! Are we a great nation or not? Are we going to give up? Are we just going to keep pretending?

"Give the money back to the job creators!" I haven’t seen the "job creators" build a national highway system lately.

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