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Most NW congressmen back transportation bill

Supporters say the bill would generate additional work in the construction field

By Ellyn Ferguson
Statesman Journal

WASHINGTON – In a rare display of unanimity, all 14 House members from the Pacific Northwest voted Friday for a six-year $275 billion transportation bill.

Supporters touted the transportation bill as a job bill because of the construction work it would generate and passed it overwhelmingly on a 357-65 vote.

The vote came only minutes after the House rejected a proposal to rework the bill to add $43 billion.

All Pacific Northwest House Democrats – Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley and David Wu and Washington’s Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott and Adam Smith – voted for the reworking. The region’s Republicans – Greg Walden of Oregon and Jennifer Dunn, Doc Hastings and George Nethercutt of Washington – voted against it.

The proposal, which failed, reflected the dissatisfaction among many House members about the overall funding. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee originally proposed a $375 billion bill but trimmed it under pressure from the White House.

Negotiators from the House and Senate now will have the task of trying to work out differences between their bills. Congress faces a veto threat from President Bush if the final bill worked out by negotiators is larger than $256 billion.

DeFazio, the fourth-most-senior Democrat on the Transportation Committee, captured the frustration of his colleagues in a statement issued after the final vote: “This bill will provide real projects to meet real needs and create real jobs.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to both catch up with the maintenance backlog and make needed capacity improvements.”

Of the $275 billion in the House bill that passed Friday, $188 billion is distributed to states by formula.

The Pacific Northwest’s share of that formula money is $5.8 billion through 2009: $2.2 billion for Oregon and $3.6 billion for Washington. The Senate bill would give Oregon $2.6 billion in formula money. Washington state would get nearly $4.2 billion.

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