Republican Trades Jobs Vote Bill for Promised Transportation Reauthorization Vote Later This Year

Compelling
infrastructure news out of the Senate last night: The long-delayed
successor to the 2005 federal transportation law could come to a vote
sooner than the spring 2011 timetable sought by
the Obama administration, thanks to a promise secured by Sen. George
Voinovich (R-OH) in exchange for his vote in favor of the Democratic jobs bill.

Voinovich_to_bow_out_at_end_of_term.jpgSen. George Voinovich (R-OH) (Photo: UPI)

Voinovich
joined four other GOP senators, including newly elected Scott Brown
(R-MA), in voting with Democrats to end debate on a $15 billion jobs
bill that transfers $20 billion to the nation’s highway trust fund,
keeping it solvent until the end of 2010.

But in a statement
released just after his vote, Voinovich explained that Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made a commitment in exchange for the Ohioan’s
support:

I spoke to Majority Leader Reid
prior to this vote and he assured me that he understands the importance
of a surface transportation reauthorization bill. I reiterated that it is the best way to create jobs,
provide an immediate stimulus to the economy, rebuild our nation’s
infrastructure and reduce our carbon footprint.

Leader Reid gave me his
commitment that he will bring the reauthorization of a multi-year
surface transportation bill to the floor for a vote this year. I look
forward to working with Senator Reid, [Senate environment committee chairman Barbara] Boxer [D-CA] and others to do so
as soon as possible so we can put Americans back to work.

Voinovich’s statement — which he passed out paper copies of to reporters after last night’s vote, according to the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim — tracks with Boxer’s comments at a Los Angeles town meeting on Friday, when she vowed to advance her version of a new long-term federal transport bill before the end of the year.

Setting
the end of 2010 as the new timetable for a Senate vote on
transportation policy would effectively commit Democrats to agreeing on
a source of funding that would offset new six-year legislation in the
range of $450 billion to $500 billion.

House transportation
committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) has estimated that about $140
billion in new revenue would be needed to close the gap between
anticipated federal gas-tax revenue and the price tag of replacing the
2005 transport law with a new bill.

Could the answer to the Democrats’ transportation financing conundrum be a post-election session (often dubbed a "lame-duck") after this November’s midterms?