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H.R. 7: Is John Boehner Serious?

What was John Boehner thinking?

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That's the question observers have been asking since the Speaker of the House put forward the most extreme transportation bill in history, one that seems to lose steam every day.

Granted, there's been some pretty crazy stuff coming out of Congress recently. But did he seriously think this proposal would pass? That he could pillage all the funding for transit, walking and biking, get approvals for oil and gas drilling on some of the nation's most sensitive lands, and strike a blow to public pensions all in one fell swoop? Or was this whole proposal more of a political statement, a fancy way of saying "no" while appearing to say "yes" to transportation investment?

It's certainly mysterious. Take a look at this quote he gave to Congress: "ABC News reported last night that we will soon see $4-a-gallon gas prices. Maybe higher. Certainly, this summer will see the highest gas prices in years. Your constituents saw that report, and they'll be talking about it. When they do, tell them about this bill that we're working on."

Wait, what? Rob Perks at the Natural Resources Defense Council's Switchboard blog is scratching his head:

So let me get this straight. With prices at the pump expected to rise, the GOP Leadership thinks the solution is to throw transit funding under the bus and devote transportation revenue to building more highways. That will have the effect of driving people (pun absolutely intended) away from public transportation and into their cars, clogging our roads even more and keeping us addicted to oil.

So what is Boehner thinking? Some theorize that he's catering to the extreme right-wing of his own party, offering this legislation as a "love note" to the Tea Party. In any case, in announcing his decision to punt on the House transportation bill until after the President's Day recess next week, the Speaker's logic continues to be lost on me.

Really, what we have here is a failure to legislate. Or maybe actually trying to pass a bill that will benefit millions of Americans who rely on the transportation system is beside the point. As Ben Goldman, writing for Streetsblog, put it: "By putting out a proposal that departs so radically from 30 years of transportation policy, begun under Ronald Reagan no less, Boehner was practically begging to start a high-profile political fight over this bill."

Meanwhile, the Senate bill, MAP-21, which appeared to at least be salvageable with a few tweaks, has been jeopardized by a slew of outlandish and controversial amendments from a handful of Republicans, according to The Hill.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Grid Chicago says the House transportation bill would cost the region billions in wasted time and fuel. Greater Greater Washington wonders if the District's "green area ratio" requirement will hinder urban development. And The Transport Politic applauds the president's budget proposal, even though it has little chance of approval.

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