Congress does many things poorly, but there are few issues it has handled worse in recent years than providing funds for transportation and infrastructure. That’s not a point you’re likely to hear either Democrats or Republicans contest.
On Tuesday, the House passed a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to expire at the end of the month. The stopgap measure would prevent a damaging shutdown of infrastructure projects across the country, but as lawmakers spent an hour debating the bill, all they could talk about was failure. Despite bipartisan agreement that the nation needs a long-term program to repair and replace its aging roads, rails, and bridges, Congress has been plugging the trust fund like a driver who refills his gas tank one gallon at a time.
“We have known for months that this day was coming, and we have made no progress,” lamented Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat. Minnesota’s Rick Nolan called the situation “a national embarrassment,” while a third Democrat, Lois Frankel of Florida, said the 60-day patch was the equivalent of slapping silly putty on a cracked bridge. Republicans, whose districts contain just as many creaky overpasses and congested highways, complained about the extension in only slightly less dire terms. Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican famous for his denials of climate change, told the Huffington Post that his own party was to blame for the absence of a long-term solution and said a “true conservative” would support federal spending for roads and bridges.