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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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FILE - In this May 8, 2012 file photo, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., center, and Rep. John Mica, R- Fla., left, listen as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., right, speaks during the first meeting of the House and Senate conference on the transportation bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congress on Friday, June 29, 2012 emphatically approved legislation preserving jobs on transportation projects from coast to coast and avoiding interest rate increases on new loans to millions of college students, giving lawmakers campaign-season bragging rights on what may be their biggest economic achievement before the November elections. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
The transportation bill: Still a few bugs in the system ...

- The right road: Passing a needed transportation bill - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

The suspicion — promoted by supporters of President Obama — that Republicans in Congress are actually trying to make the economy worse between now and Election Day was undermined somewhat last Friday. That’s when Congress approved, on a significantly bipartisan vote, a bill to keep billions in transportation dollars, and millions of jobs, in the pipeline.

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It was another down-to-the-wire exercise by the riven wings of Congress. But, in the end, neither Democrats nor (most) Republicans could stomach the prospect of federal transportation funds being shut off Saturday, in the height of what is supposed to be construction season, when the latest in a series of short-term extensions was due to expire.

Sadly, Utah’s two senators — Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee — were among the 19 Senate votes, all Republican, opposing the two-year extension of federal transportation spending. In the House, Utah’s delegation was more practical, with Republicans Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop and Democrat Jim Matheson voting with the 373-52 majority to pass the bill and send it on for President Obama’s expected signature.

The success in passing the $120 billion bill belongs to the deal-making abilities of the Senate’s most-despised (if you are a Republican) member, Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, and the Senate’s other most-despised (if you are a Democrat) member, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Here’s how they did it. They compromised. [Read the rest ...]

Of course, in Congress, compromise often means putting some rotten easter eggs - and unfinished business - into the text of a huge bill that nobody reads. Viz:

- Congress bungles noise restrictions - Arizona Republic Editorial

... Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid made a bipartisan blunder in shortcutting a Park Service process to restore natural quiet to the Grand Canyon. They backed legislation -- inserted into the huge transportation bill -- that supersedes the Park Service's yet-to-be-released noise regulations. ...

- With friends like Baucus, who needs enemies? - Casper Star-Tribune Editorial

With neighbors like Sen. Max Baucus around, Wyoming better lock its doors.

The Montana Democrat is responsible for drafting a provision in last week’s two-year transportation conference committee agreement that would take more than $700 million from the Abandoned Mine Land trust fund during the next decade — the vast majority, if not all of it, from Wyoming. ...

- Transportation bill delivers timber payments but counties need to find a new path - [Portland] Oregonian Editorial

Let's hope the roads made possible by the transportation bill are smoother than the path the bill has followed through Congress. In Oregon, the bill carried extra drama because it included federal payments for timber-dependent counties. And we already know that the road in front of those counties is bumpy. ...

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