Durbin: Earmark ban preventing federal transportation bills

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinClinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Reid backs House Puerto Rico bill McConnell pledges redo vote on Zika after break MORE (D-Ill.) said this week that the elimination of earmarks in congressional legislation has “created a situation where you can't get transportation bills passed” in an interview with an Illinois newspaper. 

Durbin, who is up for reelection this year, said in an interview with the Chicago Daily Herald newspaper that the earmark ban has negatively impacted the way Congress approaches transportation funding legislation. 

The Illinois Democrat said the ban, which was pushed by Republicans when they took control of the House in 2010, has "created a situation where you can't get transportation bills passed, you can't get highways funded," according to the report. 

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Transportation advocates have lamented the fact that Congress has not passed an infrastructure funding package that lasts longer than two years since 2005.  

A two-year highway bill that was approved in 2012, which was scheduled to expire this month, was extended for only eight months earlier this summer. 

Durbin told the paper that it was important for Congress to pass a multiyear highway bill to give state and local governments certainty of federal funding. 

He stopped short of endorsing ideas such as increasing the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax or increasing the use of tolls to pay for new transportation projects. 

“I hope we can meet our obligations to make it unnecessary, but there comes a time in some places where there's no alternative ... there just isn't enough money,” he told the paper. “We've got to make a new commitment to infrastructure."

Durbin said of the suggested gas tax increase, which has been pushed by transportation advocates, that he will “try find a way to put an infusion of money into the federal highway trust fund and be sensitive to the fact many highway users are struggling with their paychecks and this is an expense that hits them hard."