Bunning Throws in the Towel, Congress Restores Transport Funding

Workers at the U.S. DOT and on transportation projects around the
country are back on the job today after Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) lost
his politically hazardous battle against a 30-day extension of federal infrastructure law and unemployment benefits.

art.bunning.gi.pngSen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) (Photo: CNN)

But while Republicans sought to distance themselves from Bunning’s five-day stand against the $10 billion measure, sending Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) yesterday to ask the Kentuckian to yield, 18 of Bunning’s fellow GOP senators ultimately voted with him to continue withholding federal transport funding unless its cost was offset by budget cuts elsewhere.

The
extension passed on a 78-19 vote. Four members of Republican leadership
voted with Bunning: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), GOP
Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (TN), Conference Vice Chairman John
Thune (SD), and campaign committee chief John Cornyn (TX).

"This
week we saw the shutdown of
many important highway and bridge projects, which caused great concern
in many
of our states," Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer
(D-CA) said in a statement after the vote. "Now I look forward to a
longer-term transportation
extension with the legislation that has already passed the Senate, and which I
believe will pass the House this week."

The
legislation Boxer referred to, a $15 billion bill that would keep the
nation’s highway trust fund solvent until 2011, could get a vote in the
House this week. But much depends on how Democratic leaders act to ease
the objections of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who want
to see more infrastructure spending added to the Senate package, and
the Blue Dogs, who have called for more revenue offsets to the bill.

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