Coburn, Reid clash on Senate floor over highway funds

Coburn fired the first volley, offering a series of unanimous-consent requests to pass separated versions of the bill that would remove a mandate to force states to use a portion of funding for bike paths, sound walls and other beautification projects near or on highways.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke out to defend Coburn’s proposal Thursday afternoon, suggesting it would eliminate government expenditures on ridiculous and useless projects.

“Something is seriously wrong with this government when we are telling local governments to spend their highway funds on tunnels, white squirrel parks and movie theaters,” said Paul, naming some projects apparently included in the bill. “We need to, as a nation, set our priorities.”

One by one, Reid shot down each of Coburn’s three proposals for the funding bill.

Reid then offered his own proposal to bring up the bill in its current state and afford Coburn a vote on his amendment to eliminate that transportation enhancement component.

Coburn objected to that request on the grounds that he wanted unanimous consent to change the bill in exchange for allowing it to move forward, rather than an amendment.

If FAA funds are not renewed by Friday night, Democrats say, 80,000 employees will temporarily lose their jobs beginning Saturday morning.