McConnell’s highway (bill) to hell

· July 24, 2015  
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center speaks to reporters. Scott Applewhite | AP Images

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken the GOP majority in the Senate to a new low.  Not only are they committed to rubber-stamping Obama’s agenda and ignoring his fundamental transformation of our values, economy, and national security, they are now passing bills that will undermine the next president’s ability to fight for limited government.

For example, last week, the House passed a 5-month extension of federal surface transportation programs.  It contained $8 billion in bailout funds for the Highway Trust Fund. It also packed in phony offsets that will further empower the IRS.  Needless to say, this bill incorporated no structural reforms to the grossly ineffective federal transportation system, nor did it include any cuts to mass transit and the multitude of existing wasteful programs.

But the only thing worse than short-term bad legislation is long-term legislation that locks in massive deficit spending and failed policies for six years.  That is exactly what Mitch McConnell plans to do with the 1,030-page bill he just crafted with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

For starters, this bill will ostensibly blow a $100 billion hole in the budget over the next six years.  Thanks to the failures of the inane federal scheme of dolling out transportation funds to all 50 states from Washington, there is a projected $16 billion shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund per year (roughly $50 billion in expenditures and $34 billion in gas tax revenue).  The math works as follows:  This bill will authorize $317 billion in spending for the next six years.  The gas tax revenue, which is the source of funding for the trust fund, is projected to bring in just $217 million, leaving a $100 billion shortfall over six years.  Only three years of the projected cost, roughly $47 billion, will be offset.  But much like the House offsets, they are a complete sham and are spread out over 10 years.

What’s worse, 24% of the bailout funds will go towards mass transit instead of highways and bridges.  As the Competitive Enterprise Institute observed earlier this year, we are spending a quarter of the highway funds on a method of transportation that accounts for less than 2% of all trips.  If Congress actually did the right thing and devolved the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and the 24.4-cent diesel excise tax to the states, the states that rely heavily on mass transit would prioritize their tax revenue for those purposes while other states could be free from this colossal waste.

What is most offensive about this bill is that it will lock in bad policy and massive deficits for six years.  This will preempt a potential Republican president from enacting much-needed reforms on this bedrock issue for the entirety of his first term in office.  This is really where we get a glimpse of McConnell’s inverted values and priorities.  It’s bad enough he has no intention of using the Senate as a check on Obama to force at least a modicum of changes on fiscal policy for the 18 months.  But can’t he at the very least opt for short-term bad legislation and strive for something better with a Republican in the White House?

In case anyone had any thoughts to the contrary, this is what to expect from a GOP administration if an establishment Republican is elected. Even if a more conservative president upends the line-of-succession, he will be stymied at every turn unless McConnell and Boehner are ousted as the GOP leaders in Congress.

In addition to the problems with the underlying bill, McConnell is showing his true colors with the amendment process.  While McConnell never passionately drives a narrative for conservatives on important policy issues, he has always championed an open process in the Senate.  That was McConnell’s raison d’etre.  Yet, he is continuing his pattern of blocking all conservative amendments while granting votes to liberal priorities.

This critical bill, regarded as “must-pass” by the political class, coincides with the period of time when Obama and his allies are implementing one radical transformational agenda item after another. What better vehicle to use for stopping at least one or two of his executive policies than the highway bill?  But McConnell will have none of that.  The one amendment he will allow for a vote?  Reauthorizing the crony Export-Import Bank – after it already expired!

Let’s review this in its broader context.

Obama has issued another amnesty at a time of existential crisis with criminal aliens, he is trashing the military with unthinkable social engineering, he is cutting an alliance with Iran and the Castros, he is ignoring the threat of Islamic terror and bringing in an endless flow of Islamic immigrants and refugees, he is stripping parts of the oath for citizenship.  Additionally, marriage has been redefined, Obamacare has been consummated, and states are punishing individuals for not violating their religious conscience.  And the one issue McConnell cares about is the Export-Import Bank?!

But fear not, say the supercilious thumb-sucking beltway conservative pundits, just wait until 2017.  Everything will be all right…


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.