The link that is not missing, and Shakespeare 116

| March 21, 2012

So extension number nine appears inevitable.

House Transportation and Infrastructure committee chairman John Mica says its likely to be a three month extension. It will allow the House Republicans to come up with a bill of their own to pass the House (something they have not been able to do to date) , of unknown duration, to take into conference with the already-approved Senate two-year bill.

But Mica also says he wants energy and infrastructure to be linked in this document.

If you see someone hitting their thumb with a hammer and realizing it hurts, you might expect them to stop hammering.What is it with the people we send to Congress and their lack of hammer control? The energy-infrastructure link was a key cause for the failure of Mica’s first shot at reauthorization, a five year bill that went nowhere as even his own party members turned away from it and Speaker Boehner couldn’t ram it through.

Apart from that energy-infrastructure link (more specifically, earning Highway Trust Fund replacement dollars by taxing new oil and gas exploration) two other prime problems came with that initial bill. Many tea-party-favoring Republicans thought it spent too much (and Democrats that it spent too little), and its abandoning of transit funding had urban members of Congressman up in arms.

We can guess transit will be back in the post-extension version because Mica has already backed away from that one. But the funding level debate will remain unchanged. Democrats and some Republicans will still say no to the energy link because they (a) don’t want drilling off their coast, especially in Florida, and/or (b) Democrats, mostly, will argue it will take a long time to get any money out of the idea and even then it probably won’t be enough, and right now we need funding for today

There have been those who argue that the House T&I Republicans put forward a five year bill aware that it had little chance.Gamesmanship they said. But Mica has always thrown all of himself into the bill so I don’t doubt his belief in the original. But to repeat the energy link seems downright asking for trouble. In the interest of a bill, in the interests of bipartisanship and getting reauthorization done, the House bill should be as streamlined a process as we can find. It needs the fewest impediments possible. Good heavens we’ve been trying to do this for more than two and a half years

Maybe you say no, that getting something done quickly is the wrong approach. But the Senate has, with wondrously surprising bipartisanship and 74 votes for, passed a two year reauthorization bill. Both House and Senate have agreed to major reforms that are very similar, so no major stumbling block (but as always expect a little of the unexpected) there. A bill that is not ideal is superior to one that never happens. It will get people to work, significantly revamp transportation infrastructure work and put reforms into practice. Extensions won’t.

So let’s think of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.

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