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Rob Perks’s Blog

Friends Don't Let Friends Drill and Drive

Rob Perks

Posted February 2, 2012 in Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil

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Sometimes a party can get out of hand. Case in point: The Republican Party in the House of Representatives showed too little self-control by loading up a transportation bill with extreme proposals. The bill would gut environmental safeguards and raid transit funding to build more highways. In a boon to Big Oil, it would pave the way for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline -- and it would open all of our coasts and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Today the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is expected to pass its extremely partisan “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” (HR.7). Next up is a House floor vote later this month on what NRDC considers the worst transportation bill ever. If this legislation passes in another party-line vote, it will mark the death of bi-partisanship on an issue that traditionally has resulted from a spirit of collaboration and a shared commitment to the public interest.

"We stayed away from these controversies," Sen. Boxer (D-CA) said about the bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Inhofe (R-OK). Their bill passed unanimously out of committee and it's expected to pass the full Senate soon without any partisan rancor.

The House should have followed the Senate's lead by producing a bi-partisan transportation bill that could actually pass Congress, get signed by the president and become law. Instead, House GOP leaders are playing with fire by injecting misguided and destructive measures into the already-delayed transportation bill. We need a balanced transportation policy and a forward-looking, innovative energy policy. Beyond the other "poison pills" in the bill, taking the unprecedented step of connecting oil drilling to highway funding undermines both of these goals -- leaving us with a bill to nowhere.

The fact is, the policy process didn't have to be so politicized on transporation. The legislative product has never before been this polarizing. The excessive partisanship is now leading to paralysis on the nation's best opportunity for a jobs bill. What the hell happened?

“The key thing here is the Republican, after the tea party stuff, they really feel a need to show that they can still do big things and that they can rally around an investment of hundreds of billions of dollars. And in order to do that, they really needed it to be a big wet kiss for conservatives. And so this is their mark of what they think it should be,” Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, told Politico.

If that is the case, then the Grand Oil Party's strategy backfired. Look no further than the fact that several prominent fiscal conservative groups are also sharply criticizing the House transportation bill. The influential list includes the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation, and the Club for Growth. Clearly, the message to House Republicans is: Friends don't let friends drill and drive.

You can send a message too by going here to learn more and take action.

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About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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