Congress Rides With the Ghost of Eisenhower

President Eisenhower had a long-term vision for American transportation: to connect people and ideas across the nation. This vision manifested in a federally funded infrastructure, the Highway Trust Fund, uniting cities and towns across America. With this plan, Eisenhower’s vision became a reality.

Almost 60 years later, the connectivity between our nation has both metaphorically and literally begun to break down between citizens and lawmakers, and between cities and towns across the U.S.

The Highway Trust Fund had, until recently, been paid for by a gas tax of 18.2 cents per gallon. In the last several decades, the price of highway infrastructure, and the other divisions adopted by the Highway Trust Fund, outpaced its financing, leaving Congress with the difficult task of digging up additional, lasting funds for American infrastructure.

Without sustainable funding and lacking a plan, infrastructure projects stuttered, leaving jobs and projects in the balance. Crucial infrastructure needs and structural improvements all hit the brakes while Congress decides, every few months, how to fund the Highway Transportation Fund and remove the roadblocks for American industry.

In short, partisanship in Congress has put American infrastructure, American jobs, and American lives at risk. But on Tuesday, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) bypassed a short-term fix in favor of a long-term solution, offering a truly groundbreaking six-year bill to remedy the almost expired legislation. It will put American laborers back to work, providing continual employment and on-going projects, and repair antiquated or dilapidated infrastructure. This six-year plan does what short-term fixes can’t: it begins to resolve the issue by breaking through the surface and addressing the foundational issues, and it’s an example of the progress to be made when our leaders practice the politics of problem-solving through goal-setting.

This bipartisan effort will be tested before passage and will almost certainly face detractors, but it represents a bigger message: A collaborative effort from both Republicans and Democrats is not only possible, it actually yields real inroads on challenging issues.

The McConnell-Boxer bill is symbolic of what can happen in Congress when bipartisan resources are dedicated to the problem—when we stop filling pot holes and instead repair the road itself. Although it takes longer to achieve, a bipartisan approach to problem solving creates sustainable, long-term change. Focused on breaking through partisan gridlock in D.C., we at No Labels commend the efforts of Sens. McConnell and Boxer for being unafraid to dig below the surface—together—in order to address the deeper issue, and create a smoother road for other members of Congress to follow.

Dwight Eisenhower had a vision to connect American cities and towns, uniting citizens and promoting the transportation of ideas and innovation. Though the flow of ideas and connectivity has been continually interrupted over the last six years with 34 stop-gap measures, we are proud to congratulate Sen. McConnell and Sen. Boxer on their bipartisan effort to address the root of the problem, to bridge the partisan divide that caused the persistent roadblocks, and create a long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund—a return to Eisenhower’s vision of a unified nation.

Nancy Jacobson is a founder of No Labels, a national organization of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to a new politics of problem solving.


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