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Eye Opener: Congressional delay forces DOT furloughs

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 11:54 a.m. ET
Happy Monday! Federal funding for major road construction projects and national anti-drunk driving campaigns dried up Sunday night amid Congressional gridlock.

Lawmakers failed to reach agreement last week on tax credits, unemployment insurance for roughly 400,000 Americans and a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that he expects Republicans to go along with a vote this week to pass the $10 billion package despite objections from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who objected and delayed the bill.

"Senator Bunning supports this bill," his spokesman Mike Reynard told The Post on Saturday. "He believes it is essential that it should pass. But the bill must be paid for. If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that all 100 senators support, we will never pay for anything."

Bunning's objections mean the Transportation Department must furlough roughly 2,000 starting today at the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

“I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement late Sunday night. “This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.”

Construction will stop on the $50 million 9th Street Bridge replacement project in the District and the $36 million Humpback Bridge replacement on Northern Virginia's George Washington Parkway because federal inspectors cannot report for work. NHTSA employees working with advocacy groups on safe driving programs including the "Click it or Ticket" and anti-texting campaigns will have to stay home. (The furlough doesn't impact NHTSA employees working on the recent Toyota safety recalls and investigations are not impacted, DOT said.)

LaHood informed employees about the furloughs in a department-wide e-mail sent Sunday: "I very much regret the hardship that this will cause to those employees and their families," he said.

DOT workers not impacted by the furlough should report to work as normal. Impacted employees and their families may visit or call the numbers listed below for updates:

• Federal Highway Administration: (866) 499-3637
• Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: (800) 382-9067
• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: (866) 841-1496
• Research and Innovative Technology Administration: (202) 366-0401

If you or someone you know is impacted by the furlough please let us know via e-mail. Please include your full name, real e-mail address, hometown and the agency.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Andy Rooney on the 2010 Census


Another victim of ineffective, partisan sniping, is the physicians who care for Medicare patients... Their payments are being held pending the passage of this bill and they are being threatened with a permanent cut of 21% in their paychecks every year...

I suspect that few of you will have any sympathy for people who make more money than you do (usually, but not always. We rural docs don't have a house in the Hamptons or vacation in St. Moritz)...

But this incident, just another in a long line of incidents, will cause another small percentage of physicians to finally stop accepting Medicare insurance and it may be your mother or grandmother who suddenly has to go find a new doctor - and maybe cannot...

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | March 1, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

All this because one moron (excuse me, one honorable senator moron), decided to throw a Hissy-Fit. One man wants to show how big he is, thrown his weight around. One person wants to see if he can get a little money thrown back his way (is that graft or just politics?) and so many will suffer.

Can These 2000 folks file a class-action for emotional damages against Bunning, a sitting Senator?

I am glad he is leaving and I say thrown out all the obstructionists in the Senate. The American people want to be represented in the Senate, not come as an afterthought following the lobbyists, big business, and campaign donors.

Strict term limits, we don't need these types of idiots making carreers on our dime, while filling their pockets with lobbyist money on the side. Send the bums home!

Posted by: Corn-Cop | March 1, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Two points:

1) Sen. Bunning is absolutely right. The Congress passes "paygo" and then proceeds to exempt every piece of legislation from it!!!

2) Regarding furloughs and delayed projects, welcome Federals to the world of the state employee and state residents. You are getting only a small taste of the pain suffered by these two state groups. State employees are being terminated because their state government can not borrow money or print it to solve their problems.

Posted by: hz9604 | March 1, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Jim Bunning for President.

Why isn't the Washington Post holding the democrats accountable for PayGo? Remember, these are things Harry Reid took out of the bipartisan JOBS Bill.

Jim Bunning -- the only guy in Washington who knows how to count.

About time some federal employees felt the wrath of this recession They have been coddled and immune while millions of REAL Americans have lost their jobs.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | March 1, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

LOL @ the jealousy. There was a time no one wanted to work for the Feds. Now when times are tough those same REAL Americans that thought Federal work was beneath them are crying because they have now been laid off. You weren't cryin' when the gettin' was good.

Haters are such losers! I see some people fall into that misery loves company category. If they have to suffer then they want everyone to suffer. Really though... get over it!

Posted by: lap1970 | March 1, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Let's see here. LaHood calls out Toyota last week and this week his agency suffers budget impasse from the lone Sen. where Toyota happens to have a substantial presence.

Happenstance? I think not.

Posted by: creamit20 | March 1, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Its amazing how our leaders, for the most part lawyers, cannot even follow the laws they have enacted or understand that spending money you don't have is wrong.

Sen. Bunning is right, either provide funding or shut it down. We cannot continue to spend money we do not have, and that includes the Federal government!

Posted by: dwgerard | March 1, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Why can't the funds come from the stimulus money? Where is the money coming from? Why don't we take the billions from the Fannie Mae $400 billion slush fund?

Why are we worried about 2000 federal employees but not the millions of private employees that are hurt by this reckless spending?

Take the money from Harry Reid's slush fund.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | March 1, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Jim Bunning's delay of the Highway Trust Fund means enforcement of trucking safety regulations ends. If you are your loved one is killed by a large truck or bus crash today, it could have been prevented so thank Jim Bunning (R).

Posted by: DJMonet | March 1, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse
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Posted by: ytuetiuuoiujfytwrty | March 1, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

oh boo hoo for the poor feds who'll miss a few days of "work". they'll cry themselves silly having to use paid sick days out of they're ten years backlog of them to get they're huge salaries for really accomplishing very little at "work".

Posted by: pittsburglndg | March 1, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

and for another thing, the construction workers who'll not report to work most likely get paid regardless of whether they're working or not because they're under contract. so the only ones who'll truly get it in the end are drivers who'll have to wait a few more days for the projects to be completed. of course by the time they are they'll be obsolete anyway and a new project will have to be started to accomodate the god almighty car.

Posted by: pittsburglndg | March 1, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

pittsburglndg: So, who are you trying to impress by showing glee for people being out of work in economically tough times? You must be one of the bitter millionaires out there. If not, then what's your problem?

Posted by: DJMonet | March 1, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

All of the DOT put out of work deal directly or indirectly with highway safety. There is a trickle down effect, as they also coordinate with the States on Highway safety issues.

Imagining furloughing all the air traffic controllers, but allowing travel to still occur.

Bunning is not a hero. His stupidity will undoubtedly cost lives (and the value of lost lives will greatly exceed any costs saved by the furlough). Drive carefully, because nobody is minding the controls right now!

Posted by: Wallenstein | March 1, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Ed, can you please STOP with the "Happy Monday" openers? It was not appropriate when Ted Kennedy died, and it is not appropriate now when 2,000 employees are furloughed. This is a sad day which illustrates how dysfunctional Congress has become.

Posted by: Whazzis | March 1, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Sen Bunning's aide is full of it. Have to find funding before he'll support it. I guess the whole Federal Government needs to be shut down, because they don't pay for anything. These guys say things that make absolutely no sense at all. Just like the doctor's not being paid enough for medicare patients. where are they going to get more patients to fill in the gap for the money they'll lose by not taking care of these patients. Everything seems to be about GREED.

Posted by: skyjumperdave | March 1, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

How much will Bunning's Political grandstanding cost the American taxpayer? Wanna place bets?

Posted by: DJMonet | March 1, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking the Bunning delay has less to do with pay-go and more to do with delaying infrastucture projects funding by the ARRA stimulus. It'll make the government look bad and inefective and therefore encourage ousting of incumbents.

Posted by: ideallydc | March 1, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

PAYGO does not start until 2011 or 2012 according the the President address. The Bush Recession gutted 26M jobs from the American people. Job recovery is the emphasis now- That's is suppose to to according to the Repubs as well.

Posted by: Vonnie932 | March 1, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Jim Bunning makes a clear point --- What good are the words of folks in Congress?

They speak now of controlling spending . . .but do nothing about it. The wind just keeps on blowing.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | March 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Instead of complaining about Bunning, why aren't we asking why Congress delays such bills for so long that a minor objection furloughs anybody? If they are necessary, this bill should have been passed a year ago, but we had all the dithering on health care instead.

Posted by: member5 | March 1, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

DOT should shut down the interstate highways that run through Kentucky. That would probably save enough money.

Posted by: sjpatejak | March 1, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

All the guy is asking is that Congress PAY FOR WHAT THEY WANT TO DO INSTEAD OF BORROWING AND PRINTING THE MONEY. He's retiring, so he can take a stand. Good for him!

Posted by: Alangc2 | March 1, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

This is EXACTLY whats wrong with our political system No ONE PERSON should be able to stop an Bill dead in its tracks.
What ever happened to the Democratic Process?
In most of the organizations I have had the pleasure to serve in and in Job Situations if there is a deadlock on an issue it goes to a vote thats the democratic way ,and if there is deadlock then there is a mechanism to move the process forward. Here we have one Senator Jim Bunting from KY who is on his way out anyway stopping not only the extension of Unemployment Benefits but DOT funding for many of the project ALREADY under construction.
Many Projects have been stopped dead in their tracks hundreds laid -off...what a system.

Posted by: Carprin | March 1, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable the level the Republicans will stoop to accuse this Administration to slow job growth when they delay construction jobs for 1000s. The PAYGO provision is not plan for a recession year 2010. The Democratic Administration forwarded the Repubs surpluses. And they spent like druggen sailors. If Republicans had implimented PAYGO during their term in office, we would not have deficits. Reagan tripled the deficit and Bush doubled it. Why does GOP change the game field when they are not leading.

Posted by: Vonnie932 | March 1, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Bunning's doing the right thing......Congress simply must not keep spending more than they have. They need to prioritize and live within their means just like everyone else. Congress's negligence and irresponsibility is to blame here. Thanks Senator Bunning.

Posted by: hit4cycle | March 1, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The "not wanting to add to the deficit" ploy is a sham.

The GOP doesn't filibuster those bills which will help the rich or bail out the billion-dollar banks and their rich CEOs.

The GOP represents the rich. They didn't block or filibuster tax cuts for the rich during two wars, and that led to the Bush administration adding more to the deficit than all the presidents before him combined.

They didn't filibuster the bank bailouts for their very rich friends.

Never forget--The GOP is the party of the rich, working to do everything to take the money out of the hides of what's left of the middle class.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | March 1, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I would really appreciate the WHOLE story on the Bunning thing. As I understand it, Democrats did have a way around this, but CHOSE not to hold session over the weekend. This could have been resolved, but democrats thought it more politically beneficial to hold Bunning up as an obstructionist (and presumably Republicans as well, though they ALL support the legislation).

Bunning makes a logical and cogent point - if Senators, who ALL agree on a spending bill, can't find a way to pay for it, what is the point of PAYGO???? If they can't pay for this, they can't pay for anything. Bunning is not being a hypocrite here...He was against TARP, the stimulus, the omnibus too.I"m sure he'd be happy to see the money come out of the stimulus funds...he doesn't wish to deny benefits to people who are hurting. But bigger deficits, in the end, hurt ALL OF US.

Posted by: boosterprez | March 1, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Bunning was grandstanding. He knows full-well it will pass. He just wanted to be on the record for being against it. What a fool.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 1, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Ready to reform the disgraceful undemocratic Senate yet?

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 1, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Senator Bunning sits in his comfy office, shows up for work when it suits him and could care less about the average worker. Why not stop funding for some the big deals on Wall Street or wasted money on sweetheart deals for military contractors who waste billions of tax dollars. Well, because it is easier to pick on the little guy. Really class act, Senator Bunning.

Posted by: reboot923 | March 1, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

TO: Cornell1984 who wrote:

“Jim Bunning for President… About time some federal employees felt the wrath of this recession They have been coddled and immune while millions of REAL Americans have lost their jobs.”


Whaaaat! You want a guy who furloughs 2,000 working people without pay to be President, AND you’re happy that Bunning is causing people to lose their jobs.

Wacked out psycho Republican nut case strikes again!

Posted by: lindalovejones | March 1, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

The House & Senate Republicans are being allowed to torture the American people by gridlocking our goverment with excessive filibursters, holding nominations, delaying bills, and speading fears/lies to US. But at the same time they take pictures of projects they vote against. None of them are hurting financially - only the people in thier districts.

Posted by: Vonnie932 | March 1, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Don't get your panties in a knot Lindy, they always give them back pay.

Posted by: member5 | March 1, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I suggest that everyone in the country give up bourbon and boycott the Derby.

Posted by: twstroud | March 1, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Why spend money on having a functional country when we could be bombing someone instead?

Posted by: jeffwacker | March 1, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

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