Flanked by highway workers in the Rose Garden, Obama accused Congress of dragging its feet, not only on short-term transportation funding but also on more comprehensive, long-term bills. "Now is the time for Congress to extend the transportation bill, keep our workers on the job," he said. "Now is the time to put our country before party and give certainty to the people who are trying to get by. There’s work to done. There are workers ready to do it. That’s why I expect Congress to act immediately."
The president called on Congress to begin work next week to pass a clean extension of the Surface Transportation Bill, which expires at the end of September, and of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization, which expires in mid-September. The short timeframes before the current authorization bills expire have the administration pushing multi-month extensions rather than full, multi-year bills.
By "clean extension," Obama meant a bill without the massive cuts demanded by Republicans. Continuing funding at current levels won't create the infusion of new jobs our economy needs, but in a shutdown,
[...] "over 4,000 workers will be immediately furloughed without pay. If it’s delayed for 10 days, it will lose nearly $1 billion in highway funding. That’s money we can never get back. If it’s delayed longer, almost 1 million workers could lose their job over the course of a year."
Stephen Stromberg previews the Republican response:
Fox News’s headline: "Obama Calls for Extension of Gas Tax to Fund Highway Construction, Repair." Even though the president didn’t mention the words "gas," "gasoline" or "tax" once, and even though renewing the federal tax wasn’t a major issue any of the other times Congress recently extended the transportation bill.
Consider this a hint of what we will hear next month and beyond, when which critics will no doubt be tempted to claim that Obama and the Democrats want to "increase" your federal gas taxes merely by extending the current rate, or at the very least that the federal gas tax is another Obamaesque big-government scheme that must go.
Taking another angle on the president's statement, Brad Plumer thinks about how Obama's call to change how we spend transportation money might play out.