Congress, in the usual end-of-year burst of activity, have avoided that shutdown in the usual way, by packing two essential bills together. It's instructive, though, how Washington Post reporters frame the story.
The House on Tuesday appended a deadline extension being sought by the railroad industry to a must-pass highway funding bill and approved both, delaying for at least three years a safety measure that could have prevented the Amtrak derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200 in May.We have the positive train control mandate because of inattentive engineers, who haven't had sufficient encouragement from the Grumpy Old Road Foreman of Engines to control the speed of the train and pay attention to circumstances. But I digress.
Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) added the extension for an automatic braking system known as positive train control (PTC) to a highway funding bill, hoping to encourage the Senate to follow suit.Sometimes, that's the only way to get bills out of the House or through the Senate, and the way in which the bills are combined ensures rent-seeker pressure on wavering senators.
Congress has agreed to extend until Nov. 20 funding for all highway and transit, a measure that must be voted on this week so that money to state and local governments does not expire.
To the Post's reporters, though, it's a chance to suggest that the railroads are exerting undue influence on Members of Congress and slow-walking the implementation of positive train control.
“We need to extend the Positive Train Control deadline as soon as possible to prevent significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country,” Shuster said in a statement announcing his plan to marry the highway and PTC extensions. “The sooner we extend this deadline, the more certainty we will give our agricultural, manufacturing, and chemical industries to ensure there will be no supply-chain disruptions.”Fine. It's easy enough to second-guess and question motives, as long as the chlorine gets through to the waterworks. The prudent course, though, might be to keep the trains running, and establish a feasible deadline later.