The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Transportation: that's another fine bill that's snuck up on us

Correction: me.

On Friday, a cloture motion was presented in the Senate on HR 3, which passed the House on March 10.

The RPC says that the motion to proceed will be debated on the floor today Tuesday for a couple of hours, after which the cloture motion will be voted on.

The total authorisation agreed by the House was $284 billion over six years: Senate Finance Committee Chairman and Ranking Member (Grassley and Baucus) want to increase the total to $300bn, apparently.

(There is a companion Senate bill, S 732, that has apparently been reported out of the SFC - though the bill status page on THOMAS doesn't say so. The RPC says Tuesday's action will be on HR 3: that takes me to the edge of my prevailing level of expertise on Senate procedure!)

No doubt, roads have to be built and maintained - and that naturally requires moolah [1]. But a Taxpayers for Common Sense paper identifies in the SFC version of the bill
reductions of more than $1.1 billion to existing excise taxes, many of them unrelated to transportation legislation.

But all pandering to one special interest or another, of course.

The RPC also has a paper (PDF); the Democratic Policy Committee have nothing on their rather horrible site - that I can see [2].

But, as I said, its site is horrible, so I might have missed it.

My suspicion is that, on the horror scale, HR 3 is not up there with the bankruptcy bill. And no doubt anyone who was the least bit clued in would have known that the cloture motion had been presented on Friday.

But I didn't notice a fuss from (what I've seen of) the left of the blogosphere over the weekend. (Perhaps they all think it's a great bill...)

  1. I would hypothesise that how that moolah is spent - how contracts are divvied up, say - is unlikely to be devoid of political considerations. Having no information on the subject, that's as far as I can go with it.

  2. This might be a place to start looking. I can see nothing relevant, though.


The lie of the land in the Senate is, it seems, that the bill is adored by all but a few GOP skinflints.

And that's because it's stuffed with pork [1].

An illustration of the quality of the projects included in the bill:
In the annals of Washington pork, surely the Gravina Bridge would rate honorable mention. If the project is approved, taxpayers would ante up $200 million for a one-mile span linking the town of Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island, on the southern end of the Alaskan Peninsula.

And how many people live on Gravina Island? Fifty...

This sort of project was standard practice in Japan in the good old days of the LDP virtual one-party state: big-ticket contracts make the accounting so much easier.

(Not, of course, that any actual Japanese-style corruption would afflict the the Gravina Island project. But a whole lot of gratitude amongst contractors would be created in the Howling North, at the taxpayer's expense [2].)

There are in the bill no fewer than 4,000 earmarks like Rep Don Young's fatuous Alaskan erection, it seems [3].

Ain't democracy grand?

  1. There is also a stealth tax in the form of a provision for tolls on sections of interstates currently toll-free - raising the gas tax would cause riots.

  2. I had to turn up the provision, of course: §1116(b) of the version placed on the Senate Calendar; and it's #406 in the list of High Priority Projects listed in §1706.

    There are precisely 2,000 items listed in §1706 - the roundness of the number stinks: which particular projects in the list stink is impossible to know without further details.

  3. I assume that HR 3 when it came over from the House had only House pork inside; so that adding the senators' pork would automatically trigger a conference.

    A Google search on "highway bill" earmarks produces (to judge from a glance) hostile material on previous bills mostly from right-wing commentators. TCS has a useful page of stuff on this year's bill, including a full list of earmarks as at March 14, and on last year's bill (HR 3550/S 1072) that failed.

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