LaHood to lawmakers: Pass transportation portions of the jobs act

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that Congress should pass at least the portions of President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act that deal directly with transportation.

Lawmakers in the Senate voted against Obama's complete $447 billion package this week, and President Obama responded by saying they should take a piecemeal approach and vote on individual provisions in the package.

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In a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, LaHood said Thursday that they should start with the $50 billion of immediate spending in the plan on transportation and $10 billion to create a national infrastructure bank supporters say can be leveraged to lure private investment in projects.

"Our hope is that Congress will really address….a way to put people back to work quickly," he said. "The way to do that is to pass either a transportation bill or  the portion of the American Jobs Act that really will put people back to work: the $50 billion plus the $10 billion for the infrastructure bank."

Last month, lawmakers agreed on a short-term extension of federal highway funding that runs through March of next year. But negotiations on a long-term bill have been slow, and the House and Senate have not even agreed yet on the length of the bill, let alone how much it should spend.


The infrastructure bank has also gotten off to a rocky start. The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said in a hearing this week the proposal was "dead on arrival" in the House.

LaHood said Thursday the transportation portions of the jobs act were necessary because "there isn't enough money in the highway trust fund to meet all the infrastructure needs in America."

He implored Republicans to be more open to the Obama administration's transportation proposals, citing former President Ronald Reagan signing a highway bill passed by a Democratic Congress in 1982.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could recreate that type of bipartisanship today," LaHood asked. 

But the former Republican congressman from Illinois also acknowledged the resistance from his former GOP colleagues in the House.

"Given what Chairman Mica said yesterday about the infrastructure bank, that's probably not going very far," he said.

Asked what it would take to return to more pragmatic governing, LaHood was even more succinct Thursday.

"Another election," he said.