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Highway trust fund will be broke in August

If you love collapsed bridges, you are in luck. The highway trust fund goes broke in August. Congress is doing nothing.
If you love collapsed bridges, you are in luck. The highway trust fund goes broke in August. Congress is doing nothing.
Photo by Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Get ready to crumble. The federal highway trust fund, which finances upwards of 80 percent of all highway and transportation infrastructure projects, will be out of money in August. On top of that, the government’s authority to collect the federal gas tax expires in September. Unless the do-nothing Congress acts on both of these, highway will stop across the nation unless they are already fully funded.

This will kill millions of jobs in the construction industry as well as industries that supply highway and bridge construction, not to mention thousands of engineers.

The chances of the Republican controlled Congress doing anything about it are slim to none. Their focus is on repealing ObamaCare, killing the minimum wage, stopping immigration reform, ending unemployment benefits, blocking paycheck equity, cutting food stamps and passing personhood legislation. That is their idea of job cration.

“It’s a crisis, it is,” Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said. “The Highway Trust Fund goes insolvent in July or sometime around there, and so we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to fund it.”

It is not like Congress did not know this was coming. They passed a temporary extension of the gas tax two years ago, knowing it expires this September. They have known for years that the highway fund was going broke this year, but refused to deal with it. They continued to appropriate money without addressing the revenue side of the trust fund. Despite this fiscal responsibility rhetoric, Republicans in Congress have spent more money from the trust fund they it takes in, and have done that since they took control of Congress as far back as the 90s.

But what are a few million jobs here or there? Members of Congress have vacations to take, campaign contributions to collect, and frivolous bills to pass.

Even the most senior lawmakers charged with transportation policy say the decision-making process is parked in the posh leadership suites in the Capitol according to POLITICO’s Jake Sherman and Adam Snider. They are referring to the offices of Speaker Boehner, his side-kick Rep. Eric Cantor, and Senator Mitch McConnell. They are totally terrified at the prospect of governing because it will upset the Tea Party and jeopardize their leadership positions and the extra power, prestige and pay that comes with it.

Senior House GOP aides readily admit that regardless of their plan to keep this year drama free and focused on ObamaCare, Republicans will not be able to avoid some legislative battles, and those battles will expose the deep division in their party and the GOP’s lack of leadership This will go down as the worst and most unproductive Congress in the history of the Republic.

The most likely scenario is that Congress will do what it always does since Republicans took over after the 2010 elections. It will go to the brink, or slightly beyond when the fund goes broke and the gas tax expires, then they will pass a two-month extension to get the issue behind them unit after the election. This frees them to talk about repealing ObamaCare. Then in the lame duck session, they will try and pass a longer temporary fix.

That strategy worked before Senator Ted Cruz came onto the scene. Cruz, the architect of the government shut down, has a proclivity for stopping everything government does except cutting taxes for billionaires. He is pushing a bill to eliminate the gas tax entirely. He may lead a Tea Party challenge to even a temporary fix. Speaker Boehner knows it, and Senator McConnell, who is in a tight re-election race, does not want to do anything that costs money.

Obama proposed a $302 bill to keep the fund solvent and increase infrastructure funding and create a million jobs. Republicans will not even read it let alone consider it. Empty suits like Andrew Breitbart can not write blogs fast enough to blame all of this on Obama. They want Americans to forget that Congress, not the president, appropriates all money that is spent. And Congress, not the president, sets the gas tax rate.

This is the kind of government the Koch Brothers want, and paid for.

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