Senate ignores veto threat, approves highway funding bill

The Senate ignored President Bush’s veto warnings Thursday when it voted 76 to 21 in favor of a $318 billion highway and mass transit bill.

Bush had told the Senate he would veto any highway bill that provided more than $256 billion. Despite the threat, the Senate voted 86 to 11 to cut off a filibuster stalling the bill, and then voted 72 to 24 against requiring the spending in the bill to fall within limits set in the approved budget.

The Senate bill provides a 47-percent increase in spending over the current six-year funding program, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

The bill is now being discussed in the House of Representatives, which is expected to approve it. The House proposal is even more expensive than the Senate bill, with $375 billion in highway spending from now until 2010.

Even if Bush does veto the final bill, there is a good chance it could be made into law. To do so, the Senate must override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote. Thursday’s approval proves there is enough support.

Many opponents of the highway bill say the increased spending would add to the looming deficit, which is set to put the country $521 billion in debt this year. Some of the Senators who opposed the bill, such as Senator Rick Santorum, R-Penn., say Congress members are thinking more about bringing the money to their home states than about where the money will come from.

“Never get between a congressman and asphalt because you will get run over,” Santorum quoted a Washington joke about transportation funding.

To read previous stories dealing with the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, (S. 1072) click on the link to the right.