The House GOP's transportation bill was, to put it bluntly (and accurately), an abomination. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood deemed it "the worst transportation bill I've seen in 35 years of public service". Not only would it have jeopardized funding for mass transit and axed important pedestrian and bicycle programs, but Republicans were planning on paying for the increased costs by opening up vast swaths of public lands for oil and gas drilling.
It was so bad that even conservative Republicans started abandoning the bill—read all about the chaotic, sordid affair in my piece on the controversial behemoth over at Salon.Thankfully, it's dying.
The collapsing highway bill is a case study in the perils of John Boehner’s bottom-up leadership style. The speaker of the House prefers to come up with broad outlines of a legislative plan, delegate to committee chairmen to fill in the details, tap the GOP whip to sell it to the rank and file and give lawmakers in both parties chances to make changes on the floor.
But with the highway bill that all fell apart. The fumble on a transportation bill illustrates how Boehner courts chaos with this hands-off approach, and it raises questions about the fate of the central piece of legislation for 2012.
Indeed—that's what I describe in my piece; by giving the more extreme elements of his party free reign, Boehner allowed them to produce something that was so scattershot and contentious he couldn't even get his own caucus to pass it. There was too much drilling for the conservation-minded Republicans (yes, those still exist), it spent too recklessly for fiscal conservatives, and it eliminated too much transit for urban GOPers. And all of these internal tensions eventually led to its demise.
Boehner is now desperately trying to rewrite the bill, and to shorten its scope from 5 years to 18 months, but it's unclear whether it still has a shot at passing in anything close to its current form—which, for anyone who appreciates public transit, biking, walking, and not drilling the hell out of everything, should count as a relief.