Infrastructure will likely have to wait

INFRASTRUCTURE WILL LIKELY HAVE TO WAIT…. Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled a $50 billion infrastructure plan, with a proposal calling for rebuilding 150,000 miles of U.S. roads; the construction and maintenance of 4,000 miles of railways; and at airports, the restoration of 150 miles of runways and the installation of an advanced air-traffic control system. What’s more, the administration eyes the creation of an “Infrastructure Bank,” an idea that’s made the rounds for years.

Most economists consider the president’s proposal worthwhile — it’s not the kind of plan that will give the economy a massive boost, and the investments should be more ambitious, but Obama’s idea has real merit.

Notice, however, that while the president’s pitch received a fair amount of attention on Monday, the buzz was a little quiet yesterday. There’s a good reason for that: the odds of Congress taking this up anytime soon are exceedingly small.

House Democratic leaders are already writing off President Barack Obama’s $50 billion infrastructure proposal, saying that GOP opposition will likely doom any major bills on tap before the November elections.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats are looking at Obama’s proposal to pass “additional legislation to invest in infrastructure,” but he warned, “It will be very difficult to get a very broad agenda through … because Republicans’ obstructionism has, in effect, not allowed us to do some of the job-creating actions that we want.”

The most likely scenario over the coming weeks is action on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the end of the fiscal year, along with a continued push for passage of the small-business jobs bill that has stalled amid Senate GOP opposition, Hoyer said during an AFL-CIO conference call.

A staffer who works on a key transportation committee told the Washington Post, “The calendar is not our friend here, and the Republicans in the Senate aren’t going to let him have a win before the election. We really can’t expect any progress this year.”

Ideally, Democratic leaders would force the issue anyway. A pre-election vote would give the base something to rally behind, demonstrate that Dems are focused on spurring economic growth, and force Republicans to vote against an idea that most voters are likely to support.

But by all appearances, that’s not going to happen.