Obama to Congress: Extend Transportation Funding, Save Jobs


President Obama urged Congress today to extend funding for the federal transportation program, which is due expire on September 30th. I attended the speech at the Rose Garden (with my daughter Joy, pictured with me on the White House lawn below), where the President spoke alongside David Chavern, chief operating officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The House and Senate are miles apart on their approaches to transportation legislation. The House wants to cut spending by one-third in a new 6-year bill – an approach which would cost more than half a million jobs, according to Senate leaders. The Senate is seeking a two-year extension of current funding levels.

Some insiders say there’s not enough time to pass a new bill, given that neither party has put forth anything in writing. But a total collapse of the program – which would occur if Congress fails to approve some sort of extension by the end of the month – would be, according to the President, “inexcusable.” Four thousand construction workers would instantly be furloughed without pay. In ten days, we would lose a million dollars in highway funding, because the bill also authorizes collection of the federal
gas tax. Vital work on road and bridge repairs and transit improvements would grind to a halt.

President Obama asked Congressional leaders put a halt to the political gamesmanship that could put thousands of jobs and families at risk. Congress did just that a few weeks ago, when it failed to renew a routine funding bill for the FAA, resulting in thousands of aviation workers being furloughed.

We can’t afford to play this game with the much bigger transportation bill. When Congress comes back from recess, they’ll have a few short weeks to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of American workers as well as millions of drivers, commuters, and business owners. Will we create jobs and strengthen the economy by building a safer, cleaner, more efficient transportation network? Or will penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior rule the day?