Why Real Transportation Reform Died

Heritage Action has detailed at length what a good transportation policy should look like.  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Representative Tom Graves (R-GA) have both introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act (S.1164 /H.R.3264), which would begin the process of returning responsibility for transportation back to the states.  It is an excellent piece of legislation and received the support of 30 Senators earlier this year – a remarkably strong foundation.

House Republican leaders were leery of taking that approach, so instead they unveiled a proposal last July that increased state flexibility (as opposed to turning back the decisions entirely) and would have been covered entirely by revenues coming into the federal Highway Trust Fund.  At the very least, it “was a reflection of the mandate sent by the American people in 2010 and the widely touted Ryan Budget.”

Unfortunately, they moved away from that vision, reverting to a more political document that spent far too much.  Last week, a blurb in POLITICO’s Morning Transportation confirmed, yet again, it was “moderate” Republican lawmakers who forced House Republican leadership away from real reforms:

Shuster and Mica told reporters as much of H.R. 7 as they can get through – but one thing that isn’t happening is a change to dedicated transit funding. “We have 25 suburban/urban guys that just aren’t going to go for it,” Shuster said, adding the Senate is filled with urban politicians as well. “It’ll remain the way it is.” Mica said there will be meetings next week to figure out what the top priorities will be – but environmental streamlining is a huge one. 

Although conservatives frequently draw the ire of leadership and many in the press, it has become increasingly clear there is a significant block of so-called moderate Republicans who are stymieing efforts to change how Washington works.  As many conservatives look ahead to 2013, that should be concerning.

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