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November 24, 2014

Republicans Blame Obama for Blocking Multi-Year Transportation Bill in 2009 (Video)

House Republicans reached back to recent history yesterday to rebut Democratic critics who blame them for not working on a multi-year transportation authorization bill.

Why, they demanded, did President Barack Obama not push for a multi-year transportation bill at height of his power in 2009 when his party controlled both branches of Congress?

Taking the lead in citing the 2009 history was Rep. Don Young of Alaska, who noted that he had been chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee when Congress passed the last large highway bill – SAFETEA-LU – in 2005.

“I had a dear friend from Minnesota named Jim Oberstar who served beside me and worked with me to write that piece of legislation,” Young told the House.

Oberstar, who died in May, had become chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee after the Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 elections.

Young said that in 2009 – with a new Democratic president in the White House – Oberstar had a golden opportunity.

“I will tell you what was the biggest disappointment of his life is he wanted to write a transportation bill, a long-term transportation bill, and fund it,” Young said.

“And guess who said no. Our President, Mr. Obama. His Secretary [Ray LaHood], a dear friend of mine, came down and said there is no way we are going to pass a long-term bill with full funding. He did not support Jim Oberstar.”

Oberstar wanted a $500 billion, six-year transportation bill, along with a 10-cent increase in the 18.4 cent-a-gallon gasoline tax. The Obama administration opposed his idea.

“We have a lousy economy,” LaHood said in October of 2009. “This is not the time to be telling people we’re going to raise gasoline taxes.”

LaHood also said then that “There was no way we were going to find $500 billion to do the kind of bill that the president wants, that Ray LaHood wants, that Jim Oberstar wants, that the vast majority of Congress wants.”

And the Congress had just passed a stimulus bill – the $830 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – which included some money for transportation projects such as repaving airport runways and building high-speed rail projects.

But not enough money went to infrastructure, LaHood has contended.

“Of the $800 billion in the economic recovery plan, we got $48 billion. We spent $48 billion in two years, we put 65,000 people to work on 15,000 projects,” LaHood recalled last December on MSNBC. “Should it have been more money? Of course. Rather than $48 billion it should have been $480 billion….”

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