Congress may be slow sometimes, but it can move in a hurry after members have had their teeth rattled bouncing through 2 winter's potholes.
Less than a week after it was introduced, the House yesterday passed. 274 to 137, a bill that would distribute $250 million from the Highway Trust Fund to help states fill an estimated 116 million holes that have appeared in the pavement of the nation's streets and highways as a result of this winter's freeze and that conditions.
The bill was introduced last week by a partisan group of senior members of the House Public Works Committee. It was zipped through subcommittee and full committee one morning last week without hearings and pushed through the House yesterday under a procedure that forbade amendment and required a two-thirds vote, which it got exactly.
Opponents, led by Rep. Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.) and other members of a Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees tax aspects of the interstate highway program protected that the bill would set a bad precedent by assuming for the first time a part of highway maintenance costs.
Until now federal money has been used only to build roads. States have been required to pay all maintenance costs in part to give them incentive to enforce weight laws against big trucks which chew up the highways, said Gibbon.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate where opponents hope it will get more study, provides that no state would get less than $1.25 million from this one-shot handout from the fund for interstate highway construction and none get more than $17.5 million. That assures some money for every state, regardless of whether their temperature ever got below freezing.
The money would be handed out under a formula drawn up by the secretary of transportation that would include "climatological data" vehicles miles traveled and paved public road mileage in each state.
The only Maryland members voting against the bill were Republicans Robert E. Bauman and Marjorie S. Holt. The only Virginians voting for it were Republicans William C. Wampler and G. William Whitehurst.