House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) has called President Obama's proposed national infrastructure bank "dead on arrival in the House of Representatives."
Mica's comments came near the start of an Oct. 12 hearing of his committee's highway and transit subcommittee on the proposed public-works financing entity.
Mica opposes the national bank because, he contends, it would be another bureaucratic organization and would take too long to become operational to have a quick impact on jobs.
To be sure, the Florida lawmaker has been looking for way to stretch existing federal dollars as he drafts a six-year surface transportation authorization bill, which has yet to be introduced.
Instead of a federal infrastructure bank, Mica wants to give a boost to state infrastructure banks, which exist in 33 states, he says.
He also wants to expand the 13-year old Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which provides federal loans and loan guarantees to major highway, transit and other projects.
Obama proposed a "National Infrastructure Bank" in his fiscal 2012 budget request, in February. As then envisioned, the bank would be launched with $30 billion over six years and be housed at the Dept. of Transportation.
In early September, the president included an infrastructure bank in his proposed American Jobs Act, a legislative package of spending increases and tax breaks. This time the bank's up-front funding was to be $10 billion.
But his jobs bill suffered a setback on Oct. 11, when the Senate fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster--effectively blocking the package. There is speculation, however, that some of the jobs measure's tax provisions may face a better fate in Congress.
The infrastructure bank idea does have some Senate support. Obama's plan was based in part on a bill introduced earlier this year by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), with co-sponsors including Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
In addition, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) proposed an "American infrastructure Investment Fund," which would provide grants as well as loans and loan guarantees.