U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx snatched a page from the playbook of his predecessor Ray LaHood in calling on Congress to get tough on the issue of highway funding.
“We must do something dramatic. To hell with the politics,” Foxx told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28, during the committee’s kickoff hearing in the 114th Congress.
Foxx used his appearance to stump for the Obama administration’s GROW America Act, a $302 billion transportation bill proposed last year but not taken up by Congress.
Foxx vowed to send a renewed and revised proposal to lawmakers in the weeks to come, but also acknowledged that it won’t be the only idea on the table.
Restoring bipartisanship to transportation and infrastructure was a theme throughout the hearing.
EPW Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., said that even though Congress passed a highway bill in 2012 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21) transportation has largely been a patchwork of extensions in recent years.
“We want to do it right this time. We’ve done patchwork, and we’ve put together things we think are a good idea. We’ve had successes,” Inhofe stated in remarks.
“I didn’t like the way things went back in the 27-month bill that we had,” he said. “I didn’t like the idea that a lot of Republicans – my good friends – were demagoguing it and thinking they were doing the conservative thing because it was a big bill. But it’s not, because the conservative thing is to pass a bill instead of the extensions.”
Former Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who is now the ranking Democrat on the Republican-controlled committee, said EPW was the only committee in the 113th Congress not “paralyzed” by partisanship.
“We know this is an area where there is bipartisan support,” she said. “We have to have the courage in the Senate and in the House to fund a multiyear bill. We cannot leap over that idea to an extension.”
To shore up the Highway Trust Fund, Congress must find an additional $13 billion a year above current levels. Shortfalls in the trust fund are at least partially due to a stagnant fuel tax that has not been increased since 1993, a fact well publicized.
Foxx said it’s time to look forward and not backward.
“I urge you to take a hard pivot now, from the rearview mirror to the front windshield,” he urged.
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