Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is Standing Up to Senate on Transportation Bill Good PR?

The United States Senate passeda 2-year transportation bill last week. The bill passed the upper house by avote of 74 to 22 in a bi-partisan effort that President Obama and the Democratsin Congress have celebrated as another boost to the nation’s economy. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Republicans in the US House of Representatives rejected the Senate’s bill last night with a procedural vote. Now the question remains, is standingup to a bi-partisan Senate good PR in an election year?

The transportation bill would have extended federal highway trust fund spending for another two years, allowing federally financed infrastructure improvement programs to continue. It consolidates 196 federal transportation programs into about a dozen but it also keeps the projects intact and properly funded. The bill would have given stability to construction firms, which could then start purchasing equipment and hiring new workers at a crucial point when the US is recovering from a recession.

Senate Democrats and President Obama would have touted the bill as another pre-election victory, pointing to the anticipated boost in employment numbers to support their platform. This would be especially crucial for the Democrats in a presidential election year, where down-ticket races are sure to be affected by presidential choice and administration policy.

Republicans in the House could have pointed to the bill as an example of compromise and effective lawmaking, helping them to fend off challengers in primary and general elections this year. This can no longer be used to their advantage.

Now the Democrats will point to the House’s inability to pass the bill as another example of the polarized politics-as-usual approach to lawmaking that has permeated Washington for too long. This might hurt the Republicans in the upcoming election, especially if the Republican primary leads to a brokered convention. The rejection of the Senate’s transportation bill will likely backfire on Republicans as Democrats will use it as ammo to paint the right as weak on job creation. Good PR? I think not.

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