Time to compromise

Politics still standing in the way of highway bill

There’s politics. And then there’s leadership. We are surfeit in politics, drowning in it simply put, in this country in this day and age. Where once the United States not only survived, but prevailed over far worst circumstances than it faces today largely through the efforts of leaders of every political stripe who would come together as needed for the common good, we are now stuck with truckloads of politicians who at nearly every crossroad choose raw partisanship over necessary compromise. The result is progress that could be made on so many fronts is stalled, if not thwarted altogether.

And so it goes now on Capitol Hill with the highway bill. Remember the highway bill? After one extension of that legislation after another, agreement on a 15-month reauthorization was to be reached by June 30. That’s only two weeks away as I pen this piece, but all indications right now are that no deal will be reached by month’s end.

What’s more, according to Ken Orski, a close watcher of Capitol Hill and an expert on transportation policy, it “appears more and more doubtful” that reauthorization will occur anytime during the remainder of this congressional session.

“In a word, the Republican leadership has good reasons for not seeking a compromise on major legislative issues, including the highway bill, before the November election; they hope they may get a better deal next year,” observed Orski, editor/ publisher of Innovation NewsBriefs (innobriefs.com) in a recent edition.

“That the Republican position is hardening leaves little doubt,” continued Orski. “House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R- FL), in a terse and sharply worded statement on June 13, expressed disappointment that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals.

“While issuing a perfunctory expression of hope about reaching a bicameral agreement, his statement, and that of Mica’s colleague on the Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), indicate that they are in no mood to compromise,” Orski elaborated.

And bear in mind these lawmakers are not at odds over highway spending per se, but over several other issues that have become linked. Orski explained that in a follow-up statement, Mica pointed out four areas of disagreement: the Keystone XL pipeline, environmental streamlining, transportation enhancements, and creation of new federal programs.

But, contended Orski, “The Senate has given no indication of a willingness to compromise on any of these issues.” And he noted that according to one House source, “They pretty much want the Senate bill.”

He added that “a veteran congressional observer noted at a meeting we attended that ‘I would be very surprised if the parties reached agreement before the June 30 deadline. Neither party is negotiating in good faith. ...Both are playing the blame game, and both are digging in their heels. ... It’s a recipe for a stalemate.’”

So, it is up to trucking’s associations and individual fleet owners and operators to decide if they are willing to wait until after November for a highway bill or if they will stand together and demand that congressional leaders stop playing politics now and get this legislation passed via that greatest vehicle of American governance—compromise.

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