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Republicans push for long-term highway funding bill

Ahead of a rare Sunday Senate session planned to consider an expiring highway and transit bill, the Republican party is pushing for a long-term overhaul in transportation funding.

"There is no such thing as a Republican road or a Democrat road," Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said in a video Saturday. "This issue always transcends the political fights in Washington because funding our nation's transportation system is our constitutional responsibility."

Transportation funding has long plagued Congress, and the legislative body has for years passed short-term extensions to patch the budget gaps.

"This has resulted in highway dollars being spent only on maintenance and basic tasks like filling potholes," the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said. "We have slowed building projects and stopped modernizing. Today, 54 percent of America's major roads are rated poor or mediocre."

The six-year Drive act, co-sponsored by California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, would replace the current highway authorization bill, due to expire July 31. If time runs out, the Department of Transportation would fail to process promised highway and transit aid payments to states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, voiced his support of the bill Thursday, saying it would fund roads, highways, and bridges "for longer than any transportation bill considered by Congress in a decade."

"And the highway proposal will do so without increasing taxes or adding to the deficit, and that's no small achievement," McConnell said.

A few controversies still remain over the bill, including the possibility of adding language that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank or defund Planned Parenthood.

Inhofe, however, remains optimistic.

"We have a new congress and a new Republican majority and it's time for this trend to end. The Drive Act is a solution," Inhofe said. "It's the solution, a bipartisan solution. It provides the need long-term funding certainty so that the major reconstruction projects can get off the ground."

In his own video, President Obama touted the success of his administration's Wall Street reforms as Dodd-Frank's five-year anniversary approaches.

"Wall Street Reform turned the page on the era of 'too big to fail,'" Mr. Obama said Saturday. "Now, in America, we welcome the pursuit of profit. But if your business fails, we shouldn't have to bail you out. And under the new rules, we won't - the days of taxpayer-funded bailouts are over."

The legislation has allowed the White House "to crack down on some of the worst types of recklessness that brought our economy to its knees," the president said, and added that it has also given rise to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent oversight group dedicated to safeguarding Americans from predatory financial practices.

Some Republicans have called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank, and financial industry-backed legislation meant to temper the massive 2010 reform package have taken the stage in recent months.

"None of this has been easy. We've had to overcome fierce lobbying campaigns from the special interests and their allies in Congress," the president said. "And if any bill comes to my desk that tries to unravel the new rules on Wall Street, I will veto it."