Divided Congress Unhealthy for Construction

In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, 86% of survey respondents indicated they believe that the system of government is broken. And, really, who can blame them? Like many Americans, I have watched the political process with a growing level of frustration and, at times, anger. It's clear that our Congressional leaders have forgotten why they were elected in the first place - to enact meaningful legislation that benefits the majority of U.S. citizens. Thus far, their results have been paltry. In the past year, the one major accomplishment they can point to is the American Recovery & Reconstruction Act (ARRA) passed last February. Virtually nothing has been accomplished since. Democrats blame the Republicans; Republicans blame the Democrats. Let's face it: they're both at fault. The bickering between political parties is out of control, despite President Obama's pledge to curtail partisan politics. Of all the failings of the past year, perhaps this is the most glaring. Is it entirely the President's fault? No. Change can only be effected if those involved wish to change. Yet, he can be held accountable for failing to fully practice what he preaches. As Congress sits in deadlock over health care reform, other important issues are being neglected, including reauthorization of federal highway funding legislation. Although a jobs bill containing limited additional infrastructure funding is expected to pass, this watered down, $15 billion version is unlikely to make a dent in the roughly 20% unemployment rate the construction industry is experiencing. At best, it may, like the ARRA, keep construction workers employed who would otherwise have lost their jobs. At worse, it may lead some legislators to believe a further delay of SAFETEA-LU reauthorization - perhaps until spring of 2011 - is justified. Tomorrow, Congress is set to meet to go over the various elements of the current health care reform proposal. This meeting could prove a pivotal moment, determining whether a bill passes or simply dies out. I hope it's the former; I would hate to see months of negotiations - and tax dollars - gone to waste. If it does move forward, there will clearly be winners and losers. Not all of the measures proposed are ideal, or even positive. Yet, you can't please everyone, and we need to move on. In my mind, there is little hope of passage of federal highway funding reauthorization in this calendar year until Congress moves beyond health care reform, and starts to work together for the better good of its constituents. Enough with the election-year political posturing. Get it done and let's look toward the future.