James Oberstar (D-MN) staged a press conference and photo opportunity with John Mica (R-FL) in which Oberstar angrily voiced his dissatisfaction with a proposed 18-month, stop-gap highway funding bill called for by the Obama Administration's Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
Oberstar took aim at the White House, saying, “We don't have time for 8 months. It's unacceptable.” If the Executive Branch expects a partnership, Oberstar continued, they need to talk to us. The terseness in Oberstar's voice was apparent as he went on to point out that delay means projects covered under the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 would not be undertaken and, therefore, would not create 6 million jobs over the six years it covers but instead would result of the loss of 1 million jobs.
Vowing to move forward with the Act, called A Blueprint for Investment and Reform, Oberstar said there was bipartisan unanimity to move ahead. In a symbolic photo opportunity, John Mica (R-FL) spoke in support of Oberstar and then produced a shovel which the two of them gripped indicating their desire to break ground on the various infrastructure projects.
If Oberstar has unanimity in the House, that does not appear to be the case in the Senate. The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) reported Senate leaders were endorsing the White House plan for short-term surface transportation funding. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) reportedly supported a continuation of monies for the Highway Trust Fund for the next 18 months. Similarly, Patty Murray (D-WA) reportedly told Secretary LaHood the Senate had little time to do more than fill the deficit in the Highway Trust Fund. That shortfall is expected to reach $5 billion to $7 billion by August.
Oberstar described the legislation as a “new path” which would restructure departments and programs and would be performance and outcome based.