Manufacturers, Labor Bemoan Congress’ Failure to Pass Long-Term Transportation Bill
Representatives of manufacturers and workers alike expressed disappointment over the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill.
The end of that process, for now, came today, when the Senate voted to pass a House measure which would continue transportation funding for three months. Historically, highway funding bills were long-term affairs, covering funding for six years. But Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive transportation package since before 2009, instead adopting 34 short-term bills to fund transportation programs.
Also left on the table by Congress was re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, leaving that agency in limbo. Re-authorization was included in a comprehensive, long-term bill passed by the Senate, but the House refused to take up that legislation. The House bill, now also passed by the Senate, did not include Ex-Im re-authorization. The bank’s charter expired at the end of June.
“The world is passing us by,” said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “Congress yet again failed to get our country off the sidelines. Congress had the opportunity to pass two bills that would immediately secure and create jobs for manufacturers in the United States and help our nation achieve sustained prosperity: a long-term highway funding bill and a bill to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. Congressional inaction on both is gambling jobs in the United States, ceding our mantle of economic leadership to foreign competitors and hurting small businesses and manufacturers. Our nation’s job creators and all Americans deserve more.”
“No country on earth has ever had a strong economy without first having the infrastructure to support and sustain commerce,” said Ed Wytkind President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. “America’s golden age of modern transportation infrastructure and thriving manufacturing didn’t happen by coincidence. It happened because elected officials backed commonsense policies and investments that fueled economic growth. That strength was fueled by an understanding from political leaders on both sides of the aisle that when the time came to pump billions into our infrastructure, it would be done. Those days, sadly, are in our rear-view mirror.”
The Senate bill would have provided $250 billion for transportation over six years to fund improvements in highways, freight corridors, and mass transit, and would have and renewed the E-Im Bank charter.
The short-term bill passed by Congress today would replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund with $8 billion through Oct. 29.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said today that he expects the House to take up a multi-year transportation bill in September. Once that happens, the two chambers would convene a conference to reconcile differences between the two bills.
That process could last beyond October 29, at which point, the Congress may have to take up the issue of another short-term fix.