Lawmakers Breaking the Trust

Jun 28, 2012

Today, the House and Senate are rushing to complete a $100-plus billion monstrosity that combines transportation, student loans and food insurance. There are many reasons to oppose the bill (Heritage Action Key Vote: NO), and Table 3 from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the bill is another reason:


Notice all the c's?

The subsequent footnote explains that the bill would cause the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to "be exhausted in fiscal year 2015." In other words, the bill BREAKS the federal highway trust fund. Last year, House Republicans recognized that "current program funding levels are not sustainable" and offered reforms to realign spending with revenues.

Unfortunately, the list of absurdities goes on and on. Two are worth highlighting in the context of the Pledge to America:

  1. The Pledge promised to "advance major legislation one issue at a time." Transportation, student loan interest rates and flood insurance are worthy of separate consideration, not packaged together into one omnibus-style legislative Christmas tree.
  2. The Pledge promised to "give all Representatives and citizens at least three days to read the bill before a vote." Last night, the House waived the so-called 72-hour rule.

Politico's Morning Transportation asked lawmakers to explain:

Rep. Steve LaTourette [R-OH] told MT that given the circumstances on impending deadlines on both the transportation bill and student loans, acting now rather than waiting is the right thing to do, even if it conflicts with the oft-touted transparency message from House Republicans. "It's problematic, but I think if you ask most members, they would say if the choice is being here on Sunday or having a bipartisan consensus that waives the 72 hours, they'd go with the latter," he said, noting next week's weeklong recess and the fact that the bill still hadn't been filed at the time. "72 hours, now you're into next week. I think most members would say, 'If it's filed and everybody has a fair chance to look at it, it's online, we'll waive it.'" Rep. John Duncan [R-TN] told MT that "99.9 percent of us want to go home Friday." MT replied that 100 percent of transportation journalists want the same thing. (emphasis added)

When forced with the decision to work on the weekend or waive their own rules, lawmakers chose to waive the rules. Not only does the bill break the highway trust fund, it also breaks the public trust.