Folks, it’s not the amendments we should be focused on; it’s the underlying bill that we must block.
Yes, it’s another week in D.C., and that means it’s another week of work on the highway bill. Throughout the past two weeks, there have been copious pages of ink spilled pontificating about the ramifications of the Blunt amendment and religious conscious issues. Moreover, the Capitol Hill papers are filled with news about Republican Senators protesting Harry Reid’s “filling the amendment tree,” blocking their precious non-germane amendments from being considered on the Senate floor. However, through it all, we are forgetting about the underlying bill; the tax and spend highway bill (S. 1813).
Remember that most Republican senators are only lodging their protests over a chance to offer amendments that will invariably fail. They evidently have no problem with the underlying highway bill. We observed this a few weeks ago when just 9 Republicans voted against cloture on the motion to proceed with the bill. Now Harry Reid has filed cloture to shut off debate, setting up a cloture vote on Tuesday and a vote on final passage later this week. Will we coax more than 9 Republicans to oppose this behemoth?
It is appalling how many Republicans are willing to support Barbara Boxer’s highway bill – a monstrous piece of legislation that makes Boehner’s defunct House bill look conservative. The 2-year $109 billion Senate bill (S.1813) offers no reform to mass transit and continues to mandate that states use 10% of their funding for wasteful “enhancement projects.” The Senate bill will spawn even larger deficits in the long-run. Even for the two-year authorization period of the bill, there will be a $35 billion deficit between trust fund outlays and gas tax revenue. Additionally, the 1522-page bill contains $7 billion in tax increases, including onerous taxes on inherited IRAs. It also continues the wasteful union handouts under Davis-Bacon.
Both Republicans and Democrats are touting the highway bill as a jobs bill (think stimulus), but even the Washington Post is pouring cold water on this Keynesian way of thinking. In a random act of journalism, the Post observes something that we’ve espoused for decades. “The [transportation] bills would simply shift spending that was creating jobs elsewhere in the economy to transportation industries. That means different jobs, but not necessarily additional ones.”
If Senate Republicans fail to block cloture, they will be complicit in helping Democrats jam House Republicans, placing pressure on conservatives to pass a terrible bill. The vote this week will separate the men from the boys. We will be taking names.
As Senator DeMint noted last month, “in order to avert a fiscal catastrophe in the near future, we’re going to have to get a lot more serious about curtailing unnecessary federal spending. These highway bills—both Democrat and Republican—are anything but serious.”