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Club for Growth Comes Out Against Highway Bill

A key conservative organization warned Republicans today that it will track Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) ambitious highway spending and energy development bill and urged conservatives to vote against the measure later this month.

In an alert posted on its website, the Club for Growth said that “a vote on this plan, and perhaps procedural votes, will be included in the Club’s 2012 Congressional Scorecard” and slammed the measure for not reining in federal infrastructure spending.

“Simply put, this is a massive 846-page bill that doesn’t cut any spending at all,” the notice said. “Indeed, it spends at least $30 billion more by supplementing fuel taxes with additional revenue from other sources.”

The key vote notice has raised some eyebrows in the House, because the club’s president, former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), voted for a massive 2005 highway bill that Boehner and a handful of conservatives voted against.

Boehner and other backers of the new bill have touted a number of reforms to the 2005 bill that they have included in the measure to bolster its conservative credentials, along with the fact that by tying spending to revenues from domestic energy production, the measure should be budget-neutral.

Club Communications Director Barney Keller dismissed questions about Chocola’s change in positions.

“The Key Vote Alert speaks for itself,” Keller said. “Clearly, some members of the weak-kneed caucus are worried about primary challenges if they vote for this, and they are upset that they won’t be able to vote for a massive spending bill. The voting record of a former Congressman from Indiana who isn’t on the ballot anywhere in the United States is not an excuse for bad behavior.”

Keller added that the club also opposed the 2005 bill and designated it as a key vote, meaning Chocola, along with other conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) who voted for it, was hit by the group for his vote.

In addition to not including reductions in federal spending, other conservative groups have complained, the Boehner measure does not adequately devolve authority to state and local governments.

“Supporters of the bill will claim that there are plenty of positive reforms in the bill, like no earmarks or enhancement projects, but it’s still a remarkably bloated and inefficient piece of legislation,” the club said in its notice. “True reform would devolve infrastructure building and maintenance back to the states and end or greatly reduce the federal gas tax.”

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