In the News

Rubio Off Track, Again

Another day, another Florida newspaper calls out Sen. Marco Rubio for swearing allegiance to the Tea Party while leaving Floridians out to dry. Yesterday, Rubio was slammed for being the lone Gulf Coast Senator to vote against the RESTORE Act. Today, the Miami Herald takes on Rubio for opposing a bipartisan mass transit bill that would not only strengthen infrastructure (particularly in Rubio’s own backyard of South Florida) but also creates three million jobs.

Rubio will undoubtedly face a backlash for this far-right extremism – just ask embattled Gov. Rick Scott, who has struggled to recover his upside down approval rating after rejecting federal funding for high speed rail.

Editorial: Miami Herald: Pass this transit bill

OUR OPINION: Bipartisan Senate measure provides vital funding

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In an all too rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate by a vote of 74 to 22 last week passed a transportation bill of vital interest to South Florida and the rest of the country.

Every Democrat who voted, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, voted in favor. Republicans who voted split evenly, 22-22, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami voting against — a disappointment. At least the Senate majority seems to have gotten the message that the American people don’t want a dysfunctional Congress.

Unfortunately, House members apparently haven’t gotten the word.

The Senate bill extends funding for federal highway, mass transit and other surface transportation projects for two years. That would save or create three million jobs, according to national employer groups. The $109 billion measure approved by the Senate is strongly backed by, among others, the construction industry, where unemployment remains an abysmal 17.1 percent nationally.

Just as important, it would retain the funding formula for mass transit that dedicates 2.86 cents in the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax for trains, buses and other transportation systems. For Miami-Dade County, federal support means $184 million annually to keep Metrorail, Metromover and Metrobus operating.

The loss of federal revenue would deal a crippling blow to these mass transit systems, but that’s what the House proposes to do.

The version preferred by some — but not all — GOP opponents of the Senate measure would replace the mass transit set-aside with a one time payment of $40 billion spread over five years that would be shared with other transportation initiatives.

They also want to use the bill for a completely unrelated purpose, linking it to expanded oil drilling from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the outer continental shelf off the East Coast (including Florida).

Speaker John Boehner appears to have recognized that this version favored by some GOP hard-liners in his caucus doesn’t stand a chance of becoming law, but there’s no immediate plan to go forward with a reasonable compromise. No action on this vitally needed measure was on the floor schedule for this week released by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

That sets off alarms for backers of mass transit — and everyone else who cares about transportation projects and infrastructure — because the federal government loses authority to collect the gas tax on March 31 unless the House acts. That would put federal funding in jeopardy.

This uncompromising approach is why public approval of Congress stands at 10 percent or below in recent polls. Mr. Boehner should urge the members of his caucus to set aside their job-killing intransigence and accept the bipartisan Senate version before funding runs out.

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