Congress faces a looming deadline that could threaten millions of jobs. The Highway Transportation Bill, legislation that funds the maintenance of our roads, public transportation and thousands of construction projects across the country, expires in less than a week.
In May, Speaker John Boehner blocked consideration of the Senate-passed Highway Transportation Bill to fund federal transportation programs that create jobs. Congressional Republicans instead passed a highly partisan version of the bill that would cut highway investments in 45 states and D.C. and eliminate funding for transit programs like Metro, harming more than 500,000 jobs.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to the problem we are facing – the House should approve the Senate version of the bill passed overwhelmingly more than 100 days ago.
The Senate version of the bill, approved on a 74-22 vote, would boost our economy and keep millions of Americans at work. In fact, the Senate-passed bill would protect 1.8 million jobs nationwide and create one million more jobs through leveraging transportation funds.
The Senate Transportation bill also makes meaningful reforms by maintaining current funding levels for highways and public transportation, consolidating over two-thirds of all highway programs, establishing a national freight program, improving safety oversight of public transportation, and instituting accountability for transportation infrastructure investments. It provides certainty to states, businesses and investors. It is also fully paid for.
The Senate bill also demonstrates what we know to be true – investing in our federal infrastructure creates jobs. The American Alliance for Manufacturing states that every billion dollars of infrastructure investment creates 18,000 jobs here in America. With $2.2 trillion in needed investments, the Republican version that cuts funding for repairs to our crumbling infrastructure is unwise from a public safety and economic perspective.
Further, an extension of the Senate’s Highway Transportation Bill would help unemployment in the industries hardest hit by the recession. The construction sector lost 28,000 last month and their unemployment rate sits at 14.2 percent. Of the one million jobs created by the Senate highway funding bill, a significant portion of these are construction jobs. This economic impact alone should bring Republican House leadership to the negotiating table.
Failure to arrive at a solution is unacceptable. Given all of the problems we face as a nation, an agreement to extend the Highway Transportation Bill can bridge the ideological gaps that divide us and lay the foundation for future compromise on other issues. As Senate and House leadership works to find common ground on a Highway Transportation Bill before the June 30 deadline, the bipartisan Senate version should be our model for compromise.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.