Senate Passes Bill Funding Furloughed Transportation Workers


The Senate passed a stop-gap transportation bill Saturday that will put almost 4,000 workers back on the job.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House 365-51 on Friday after a lapse in the transportation budget funding caused some 3,700 highway workers to go on furlough, the New York Times reported.

Money to fund the workers, and other transportation projects, had been slogging through Congress in a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that initially had some bipartisan support, especially in the 50-50 Senate.

That bill, however, became snagged in the weeds when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted it move on a concurrent track with a larger $3.5 trillion “social infrastructure” bill that includes expanding Medicaid and Medicare, providing universal pre-K childcare, free community college tuition, and several elements of the Green New Deal to battle climate change.

Progressives in the party want the bills tied together and say they would not support a stand-alone vote on just the infrastructure bill.

Moderates in the party including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., said they could not support the larger bill, effectively killing it in the evenly split upper chamber.

Republicans said they would remove their support for the infrastructure bill if the larger budget reconciliation bill moved forward, putting both in a virtual holding pattern, with Pelosi holding back floor votes this week.

If both bills were to fail, it would be a devastating loss for Democrats, who control the House, Senate, and White House.

Transportation workers were furloughed Thursday as funding lapsed.

The stop-gap bill passed by the House on Friday and Senate Saturday will allow them to go back to work while the legislative process on the two other bills plays out.

According to the Times, Pelosi put out a letter Saturday rallying her Democratic troops to pass both bills by the end of the month.

“Again, we will and must pass both bills soon,” Ms. Pelosi wrote. “We have the responsibility and the opportunity to do so.”

Sinema also put out a statement Saturday criticizing the leadership for dragging its feet on a floor vote for the infrastructure bill alone.

“Denying Americans millions of good-paying jobs, safer roads, cleaner water, more reliable electricity and better broadband only hurts everyday families,” Ms. Sinema said. “Arizonans, and all everyday Americans, expect their lawmakers to consider legislation on the merits — rather than obstruct new jobs and critical infrastructure investments for no substantive reason.”