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House Transit Bill Just Got Worse: It's Now Three Bad Bills

J. Mijin Cha

What happens when you take a terrible bill and split it in three? You get three terrible bills.

Last week, the House GOP introduced their version of a transportation bill and it seems they managed to appall everyone with how bad it was, including their own base. The conservative Club for Growth urged members to vote no on the bill, as did Heritage Action for America. In response, the House GOP split the bill into three separate bills: one that deals with highways and transit, one that opens up all areas for offshore drilling, and a third that increases the amount that government employees contribute to their retirement funds. Yes, taking money from public employees was one of the funding streams for the GOP transit bill.

Despite the GOP’s attempt at spin, splitting the bill in three doesn’t get rid of their bad policies. The highways and transit bill still removes funding for public transportation. Presumably, it also keeps the provisions that will make transportation jobs unstable and unsafe by contracting out Amtrak food service jobs to the lower bidder and make several thousand railroad employees exempt from basic protections, like the minimum wage and right to overtime pay.

The energy bill is entitled, “Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act.” The bill looks to open almost all areas for drilling and oil exploration and aims to use oil-shale revenues to pay for infrastructure repair. But, a recent CBO report says that oil shale leases under the proposed energy act would come to less than $100,000 a year, while infrastructure improvements are estimated to cost around $40 billion. In the meantime, commercial oil shale mining technology is still not fully developed and the water requirements for the process would place more stress on already arid areas.

The “Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act,” is a thinly veiled attempt to cut federal pensions. This bill continues the GOP attack on public employees even though, as Demos’ Jack Temple detailed, federal workers are not the privileged class the GOP tries to paint them. And taking money out of anyone's paycheck is a bad idea right now, with the economy still struggling. 

It’s not clear if the splitting of the bills will increase support, particularly since the substance remains the same and President Obama has threatened to veto the full bill. On top of all this, there are the amendments that have nothing to do with transit but push forward the radical GOP agenda, including trying to further limit access to birth control, fast tracking Keystone XL, and opening up the Grand Canyon to uranium mining.

None of these shenanigans will help create jobs or help our still struggling economy. Yet, this is what Congress is spending their time on. Is it a wonder their approval rating is at an all time low?