House Republicans last night rejected the Senate’s bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill and said they would instead adopt a short-term resolution that would maintain current funding levels for 90 days. With just 10 days until the current short-term authorization plan expires, that means House Republicans have made possible a transportation shutdown that could force more than 1.9 million workers off the job.
The Senate approved MAP-21, its transportation bill, 74-22 last week. The bill “is the biggest jobs bill that Congress will consider this year,” according to its main Democratic sponsor, California Sen. Barbara Boxer. The bill is also fully paid for. A long-term House bill that was rife with problems — not least that it would have bankrupted the Highway Trust Fund — has already been defeated.
According to the Department of Transportation, MAP-21, which continues the current levels of funding plus inflation, would save 1.9 million transportation jobs that would temporarily disappear during a shutdown. The bill would also create roughly 1 million new jobs, according to Democratic estimates, bringing the total number of jobs in jeopardy to nearly 3 million, Boxer told the Washington Post:
“The clock is ticking on the shutdown of our transportation programs,” said Boxer, who was floor leader in crafting bipartisan support for the Senate bill. “We’re talking about almost 3 million jobs, and the House is playing games. This is a jobs bill — make no mistake about it.”
If Congress fails to authorize a new transportation package, it wouldn’t be the first time House Republicans have forced workers off the job. Last August, the GOP skipped town after voting on a debt package without reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, forcing the agency to temporarily furlough 4,000 workers while others worked without pay.