Raising jobs needs over politics
The disappointing unemployment report a few weeks ago showed that job creation had slowed. Because it is a presidential election year, the numbers produced an even more vigorous round of political finger-pointing than they normally might.
One sector of the jobs report offered an opportunity for the finger-pointers to actually do something to create new jobs.
The report revealed the largest decline in two years in heavy construction, a loss of 28,000 jobs in May alone. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the loss was due primarily to a 1.4 percent reduction in publicly-funded construction spending, which restrained overall growth in all construction to just 0.3 percent.
In Washington, meanwhile, the Senate has passed a three-year, $109 billion transportation bill - by an unusually bipartisan 74-22 vote - that would help maintain 1.9 million existing heavy construction jobs and create nearly 1 million more.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have been unable to pass a bill even within their own majority caucus. But, even without a new bill, they have agreed to a conference committee with the Senate.
Rather than simply passing a transportation bill to attend to badly needed infrastructure repairs while maintaining and creating badly needed jobs - as both parties in the Senate have done - House Republican leaders have embellished the issue with unrelated matters related more to politics than transportation.
Foremost is their inclusion in the House bill of mandatory construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would traverse the Midwest from Canada to the Gulf Coast - a controversial project that is under separate review because of its potential environmental impact.
The House version also would severely limit environmental reviews of all construction projects, regardless of their scope.
Senators from both parties agreed to their bill due to the work of Sen. Barbara Box, the liberal Californian, and Sen. James Imhofe, the conservative Oklahoman, who raised the country's infrastructure and job needs over politics. Similar leaders must emerge in the House.