Corker: GOP "Irresponsible" on Highway Funding Fix

Corker: GOP "Irresponsible" on Highway Funding Fix
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Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker criticized members of his own party Wednesday for their failure to find a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out at month’s end.

The fund pays for highway and infrastructure projects throughout the country, and is set to run dry on May 31 because Congress passed a 10-month fix last summer. Corker said the “writing is on the wall” for another short-term solution in the next two weeks, which he called “kicking the can down the road.”

“I will be stunned if Republicans deal with the Highway Trust Fund responsibly,” he said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s not going to happen.”

Because Congress will be in recess the last week of the month for Memorial Day, that leaves less time for a solution to be reached. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will take up a fix before the recess, which leaves little room for reaching a long-term agreement.

One of the main issues involves how to pay for the projects the fund finances. Currently, the gas tax does so, but that levy hasn’t been raised in nearly two decades and Republicans in Congress have insisted that they will not raise it this time around. Corker considers the tax a “user fee” and said that without raising that fee, the only other option is to spend less on infrastructure. But “that’s not going to happen. We’re going to spend the same amount of money and we’re going to kick the can down the road. Incredibly irresponsible, total failure, abdication of leadership.”

This isn’t the first time Corker has criticized the way members of his own party deal with funding issues. When Republicans in the House and Senate were attempting to reach an agreement on a budget resolution, he was the last holdout because of issues he had with a spending mechanism he called a “gimmick.”

Though Corker eventually agreed to the budget resolution without too much delay, he successfully brought his concerns into the conversation. As far as the Highway Trust Fund is concerned, Corker said it is the “first step towards showing that we can responsibly deal with fiscal issues that matter.” Grouping it with his budget concerns, he said Republicans today are using a definition of “conservatism” that is different than the one he follows.

“We’re becoming the party of … spending almost the same amount of money, in some cases more, but not paying for it,” he said. “And that’s conservatism today, it’s just not the conservatism I grew up with, it’s not the conservatism that Tennessee embodies.”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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