Senators bicker over highway funding

| Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Sniping over the delay of a new transportation bill erupted during a Senate hearing Sept. 23, unveiling the passions behind the reasons for the delay, The Kansas City Star reported.

The six-year bill, which was intended to boost the nation's highway and transportation programs, was supposed to pass by Sept. 30, when the current six-year funding expires.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met to approve a five-month extension to the current law. The extension would keep federal dollars flowing to states while negotiations continue on a new bill.

But the absence of a six-year bill will prevent many states from planning beyond the next five months.

At the hearing, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said the bill had stalled because of weak and unfocused Republican leadership at the White House and in Congress.

Reid called the delay "unfortunate and irresponsible."

Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the committee, responded that "we were doing very well until you walked away from negotiations with Sen. Bond."

"I walked away because of ridiculous proposals made concerning the environment and no money," Reid hotly replied.

Funding the six-year bill, which is expected to be more than $300 billion, has been a major stumbling block in both the House and the Senate, where Republican leaders don't want to raise taxes.

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