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Listen / Read: Tulsa World: Senate breaks impasse
March 3, 2010

Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

On March 02, 2010, Sen. Inhofe voted for short term extension of Federal Highway Program, and released a statement explaining that the vote was only a short term victory and there was much work to be done to ensure consistent funding for the program.

Link to Press Release

In the News . . .

         Sen. Inhofe on the Federal Highways Extension

Reid Mullins Radio Show - KTOK

Tulsa World

Senate breaks impasse

by: JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Link to Article

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate broke a days-long impasse Tuesday and easily approved a bill temporarily restoring federal funds to road projects in Oklahoma and other states as well as unemployment benefits and other programs.

The vote was 78-19, and President Barack Obama signed it into law late Tuesday.

Oklahoma's two Republican senators split their votes, with Jim Inhofe voting for the bill and Tom Coburn voting against it.

Funds for the programs expired over the weekend after U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., repeatedly blocked a vote on the short-term funding legislation because its costs were not offset with cuts elsewhere.

That led to a furlough of nearly 2,000 federal transportation employees, halted jobless benefits, allowed a cut in Medicare payments to doctors to kick in and threatened eventually to shut down road projects.

Bunning, a Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher who is not running for re-election, had stuck to his objection as Democrats took turns hammering him over the pain he was causing unemployed Americans.

Inhofe and other Republicans were unhappy with his tactics.

Bunning repeatedly said he supported the programs but insisted that their costs not be added to the national debt.

If the Senate cannot come up with $10 billion to pay for programs that have such popular support, he said, then lawmakers will never pay for anything.

Bunning offered an alternative bill, which would have paid for the programs by making a byproduct of the pulp and paper-making process ineligible for a certain tax credit.

That proposal failed on procedural vote.

''For too long, congresses controlled by both Republican and Democrat majorities have not done a good enough job of controlling the spending of the taxpayers' money,'' Bunning said after the vote.

Democrats dismissed Bunning's claims that he was standing on budget principles by citing his votes for other bills that were not paid for in the past.

"If citizens want to know what's clogging up Washington,'' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "they need to look no further than to the irresponsible stubbornness from the other side.''

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Bunning agreed Tuesday to the same offer he rejected several times since last week.

Inhofe said he was pleased that Congress finally got its act in order.

"By passing the 30-day extension, we put Oklahomans and Americans back to work and ensured states get the money they are owed by the federal government,'' he said.

"But let me be clear: Today's vote is only a short-term victory.''

Inhofe called for quick action on a long-term extension, adding that the stop-gap measures recently cut by $1 billion a month the amount of money that had been going toward roads.

He was joined Tuesday by Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley in making press calls to explain the impact of the impasse on state projects.

If the funds had not been restored, Ridley said, ODOT would have had to decide which projects to slow down or shut down.

In the coming days, he said, the state would not have been able to pay its contractors.

"We are not going to compromise the safety of our construction projects,'' Ridley said.

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