Yesterday was the great debate and committee markup session for the House Transportation Bill. As expected, it was all about the posturing about priorities.
Those priorities, per the chief supporters, were highways. A provision revealed in markup yesterday showed that dedicated funding for transit would also disappear.
An amendment to restore enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools failed 27-29. Three Republicans voted for the amendment. More than 80 other amendments were discussed. The bill itself eventually cleared the Committee on a vote of 29-24.
Meanwhile, the House Ways & Means Committee, who can be summed up as “People who control a lot of how money is used,” announced their plan to forbid gas tax revenue from funding transit. Yes, indeed! Gas taxes are for cars and highways, silly humans! Gas taxes should be used to cater to the likes of this gentleman, who raves on about subsidy given to transit, without looking at the inherent subsidies given to single-user cars via highway funds and artificially low gas prices.
Here’s the thing, though. The House does not act alone. Bills require Senate approval. And that just will not happen. This is a bunch of political posturing. Panic may be an overwrought response by advocates, because the Senate drew a line in the sand yesterday as well. The Senate Banking Committee has passed a two year transit bill from committee with unanimous bipartisan support. Yes, unanimous. Yes, Republican and Democratic votes. Among other tidbits, the bill would allow federal funds to be used on transit operations — not just build-out or capital improvement.
The House Transportation bill will never clear the full Senate, which is still Democratic. It has not been written in good faith to pass both houses. It was written to serve as campaign fodder, particularly in rural districts with a lot of roads. That’s it.
Do we still need to widen the circle? Of course we do. But maybe we can all let our blood pressure go down a bit and look at productive ways to get advocacy out of panic mode and back into building a broad movement.