Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he thinks Congress will pass an “infrastructure program” by the end of this calendar year.
He told the National Press Club that leaders of both the House and Senate transportation committees “get it,” and want to enact legislation as soon as possible.
“They know that we need to get a transportation program; we need to put people to work,” LaHood said. “I believe that we are going to get an infrastructure program. And I believe it’ll happen before the end of the calendar year, because I think there’s an enormous amount of pressure on Congress.”
He did not clarify if he meant Congress would soon enact a long-term surface transportation bill or special interim legislation to spend more on infrastructure, such as President Obama proposed in his jobs plan that failed to advance in the Senate this week.
“I’ll take either one,” LaHood later told The Journal of Commerce. He said he expects passage of a bill for infrastructure investment “with a significant amount of money.”
LaHood in his National Press Club remarks said Obama put $50 billion into the jobs plan for transportation spending “to give an infusion” of extra funding that could quickly create construction jobs, while Congress works on multi-year surface transport legislation.
Asked what the administration is urging the debt-reduction “super committee” of 12 lawmakers about infrastructure investment, he said, “I don’t know what the super committee is going to do. But Congress should take action now. They just simply should.”
Investing in infrastructure to create jobs is “a no-brainer,” LaHood said. “Our mission is to persuade Congress to pass a jobs bill.”
Obama’s jobs plan included another $10 billion in seed money for a national infrastructure bank, and the president’s jobs council of corporate and labor chiefs also wants Congress to set one up. But House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., on Wednesday said the idea was “dead on arrival.”
LaHood said that “given what Chairman Mica said about the infrastructure bank yesterday, probably that’s not going very far.” However, the idea has some bipartisan support in the Senate, he said, and will be part of the debate there.