I like a Boehner that bleeps

Speaker of the House talks tough, demands action on transportation bill

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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I always knew Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) could be animated in his delivery. So when he basically told close friend Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) to stop being a "bleep" and go do something about the House transportation bill, I thought to myself, "It's about bleepin' time."

 

This is the Boehner I want to see--one that demands action. LaTourette, along with a mass of others, was not happy with the five-year transportation bill generated out of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and he went public with his feelings. Boehner took offense to the display and ordered his colleague to rectify it. LaTourette has gone back to the House T&I Committee with some suggested changes, and at press time it appears the House is leaning towards going with an 18-month transportation bill rather than a five-year measure. The total dollar amount has yet to be disclosed.

 

This is not Rep. John Mica's (R-Fla.) proudest moment. The head of the T&I group helped put together the original $260 billion plan, but then had to deal with over 200 amendments. One of those amendments stripped dedicated funding from mass transit, and put a torch to Mica's aspirations. They have returned to the drawing board, and word out of Washington is that the dedicated funding for mass transit will be reinstated.

 

In the grand scheme of things an 18-month bill is not the worst step the House could take. The Senate is about to pass MAP-21, which is a two-year transportation bill that will fund the industry at more than $40-billion-plus annually. So now the timelines are closer, and as long as the funding levels are not miles apart Congress might actually pass something to the White House.

 

However, funding, and the means of it, could still be a major sticking point. If the House still ties some of the dollars to future oil drilling and continues to bow down to spending pressure from the ultra-conservatives the 18-month plan could turn weak. If it is going to be a short-term bill, this industry should settle for nothing short of $40 billion annually.

One thing is for sure--as soon as the Senate and House join together to work out a final transportation bill the conversation is sure to get animated.

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