You have probably already heard about Senator Jim Bunning’s (R-KY) showdown over extending jobless benefits (See WFPL, C-J, Fat Lip, Page One, Fox 41, and Mojo). Bunning single-handedly blocked an emergency stopgap funding bill that would have covered unemployment benefits and tax credits for health coverage.
But did you know that stalling the move also shut down the entire United States Department of Transportation beginning today? Without the Highway Trust Fund extension, DOT was forced to furlough 2,000 employees this morning, end reimbursements to state transportation projects, and shut down national anti-drunk-driving efforts, including delaying the Toyota recall hearings.
Bunning made this one-man filibuster saying he didn’t want to add around $10 Billion to the national debt by approving the stop-gap measure. Instead, he wants programs funded by leftover stimulus money. When confronted about his actions, he reportedly responded “Tough s–t.”
Here’s was DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says this morning on his blog:
Now, the Highway Trust Fund reaches much further than its name indicates. It supports all of America’s surface transportation—highways, bridges, transit, safety inspections, and our efforts to promote seat belt use and to fight impaired and distracted driving.
This doesn’t mean we’ll just have to pull a few PSAs from evening television programs. It means federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing transportation work on federal lands to halt abruptly.
This affects people and communities across the nation. It puts a stop to bridge construction and stream rehabilitation in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Resurfacing of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi will be placed on hold. And replacement of the Humpback Bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Virginia will just have to wait.
These are important projects. And the workers will be sent home from their job sites.
There will likely be a quick response today to get the US DOT up and running again and to restore unemployment benefits to over a million Federal workers.