Two key congressional Republicans pushed back at President Obama’s over who bears responsibly for stalled transportation spending measures, while agreeing with his request to extend Highway Trust Fund programs that would otherwise expire Sept. 30.
The sharp-edged statements show that transportation policy disputes can erupt easily, even over actions both sides generally appear to support.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that after seven previous extensions of those federal transport programs, “I will agree to one additional highway program extension.”
But he would not immediately support Obama’s call for Congress to also extend aviation tax collections and spending programs that run out at mid-month, in order to avoid another partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration like the one in late July to early August.
Instead, Mica said Wednesday afternoon, “I am returning to Washington to also consult with our Republican leadership before granting the 22nd FAA extension.”
From the Senate, the ranking GOP member on the Environment and Public Works Committee also criticized the administration’s efforts on transportation, even as he agreed with the call to keep highway funds flowing without interruption.
“I appreciate President Obama's remarks today on the need to extend the highway program," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. "But the reality is that his record on infrastructure is abysmal.” He said Obama has talked about transport investment without offering any plan for it “and that is why the current environment on transportation spending is so toxic.”
Meanwhile, Inhofe said, “there are efforts on a highway bill in both the House and the Senate. But given Obama's record on infrastructure, maybe it's better that he has stayed out of the discussions.”
The senator also complained that Obama used his Wednesday Rose Garden comments to chastise lawmakers for earmarks of the past, as the president said he will also propose reforms in future transportation spending processes.