Transportation chief slams GOP over spending bill riders

Transportation chief slams GOP over spending bill riders
© Anne Wernikoff

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE slammed Republicans in Congress for including policy riders in a $55 billion funding bill for the agency that was unveiled on Tuesday. 

"There's some very important safety protections that are being challenged through the appropriations process, without the benefit of hearings, without the benefit of ... testing those riders in the warm glow of public discourse," he said during a briefing with reporters.

The GOP measure provides $55.3 billion in funding the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments, as well as related agencies, for fiscal 2016. 

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The measure also includes a number of provisions dealing with policy issues, including language allowing heavier trucks than the DOT has previously approved and prohibiting commercial flights and cruise ship from traveling to Cuba in a rebuke of the Obama administration's move to normalize relations with the island nation.

Foxx said the issues that are not related directly to the Transportation and Housing agencies funding should be handled in other pieces of legislation.

"Everyone knows we need to have a reauthorization of the surface system. And reauthorization gives you a chance to have the debates, have the discussion, argue both sides and come up a solution that makes sense," he said.  

"What's happening is the appropriations process is now being used to create policy, which when it comes to safety, that's a real problem because it leaves us without a process with which we can articulate the concerns we have," Foxx continued. 

"You can expect us to be very vocal about these issues, and my hope is that folks won't only reconsider the merits of some of the issues, but also some of the processes that some of these issues are dealt with, because there's a much better process available," he concluded. 

Foxx said the Obama administration is also not happy with the funding levels that included in the GOP's proposed spending bill for his agency.  

"It's below what the country needs and we've said frequently, loudly and whispering in the hallways of Capitol Hill that sequestration is not good for the country and if we continue trying to operate within the sequestration caps, it's going to do damage to our transportation system," he said. 

Foxx said he is particularly upset about the inclusion of the Cuban travel restrictions in the appropriations measure for his agency.    

"The president said very firmly that we need to change the dialogue in the conversation with Cuba, and that a change in tactics is perhaps our best chance to create a better environment," he said.