Even on the brink of a partisan meltdown, Democratic and Republican senators found something Tuesday that they could agree on: a $295-billion highway bill that provides funds for popular traffic-easing projects.
The measure, approved 89 to 11, has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which considers it too costly in the face of federal budget deficits since it exceeds, by about $11 billion, a spending cap set by the Bush administration.
The legislation funds highway, mass transit and traffic safety projects through 2009. The last highway bill expired in September 2003; because of conflicts between Congress and the White House over spending, temporary extensions have been used to fund highway projects since then.
The Senate bill must be reconciled with a $284-billion House measure that falls within the president's spending limit but has drawn the wrath of deficit hawks because it includes thousands of projects sought by lawmakers for their districts.
Members of Congress know they're going to catch all kinds of flak
for adding pork projects, and yet they do it anyway. In fact, they're doing more and more of it.
It's just a simple, political calculation. The pork helps them more than it hurts them.