Tulsa World: Inhofe-Coburn deal aids Senate passage of transportation bill
September 16, 2011
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
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Inhofe-Coburn deal aids Senate passage of transportation bill
By JIM MYERS
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval Thursday to a stopgap measure on aviation and highway programs after Sen. Jim Inhofe helped broker a deal involving fellow Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn.
Approved by a 92-6 vote, the bill now headed for President Barack Obama's signature averts another partial shutdown for Federal Aviation Administration workers.
The FAA faces that deadline on Friday.
"Righteousness prevailed,'' Inhofe said after voting for passage. "This extension will ensure that no FAA workers will be furloughed tomorrow in Oklahoma or anywhere in the nation.''
Inhofe, the state's senior senator and a top player on transportation issues in Congress, announced the deal allowing the vote on the bill but shared credit with Coburn.
"This is a team effort between Coburn and myself, and it was successful,'' he said.
Inhofe said the agreement covers an opt-out provision to be inserted into the next transportation bill allowing states to avoid spending federal dollars on so-called enhancement projects such as bike paths. Instead, he said, states could use that money on environmental mitigation.
Coburn had targeted the spending on enhancement projects and was threatening to hold up the bill, which already had been passed by the House.
Under Senate rules and procedures, one senator can delay the chamber's business.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had heaped criticism on Coburn's tactics, but Coburn said he would not give in.
With the House already gone, Inhofe said he went to the floor and worked out the agreement with Coburn and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"We had already been talking about that,'' said Inhofe, who serves as that committee's ranking member and agrees with Coburn that states should not be required to spend federal dollars on enhancement projects.
"Coburn got what he wanted. I got what I wanted. It's a happy ending.''
Boxer described the time as a "crucial moment'' for the 1.8 million workers and the thousands of businesses that depend on a strong transportation bill.
"There were needless delays, but in the end the Senate showed it was willing to do the right thing,'' she said.
"We can accomplish so much when we work together,'' he said. "Today, Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelmingly to make sure that 74,000 aviation workers and nearly 2 million construction workers will stay in their jobs.''
Coburn, who voted no on the bill, did not respond to a request for a comment.
Under the legislation, funding is extended for the FAA another four months and another six months for the Federal Highway Administration.