Roughly 2,000 Transportation Department employees who had been furloughed earlier this week were ordered to return to work Wednesday morning. The order came late Tuesday night after Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., relented and allowed a vote on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits and provide transportation funding.
Bunning objected that the bill would add $10 billion to the deficit and wanted Congress to find a way to pay it, and began blocking it Feb. 25. The blockage meant Transportation didn’t have the funds to pay employees at the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Bunning came under withering criticism for his block earlier this week, and he himself found some unique ways to express his opinion on the subject.
In a statement released Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said:
I am pleased that the Senate has acted to break its logjam and extend the Highway Trust Fund for another 30 days. This means that our valued employees may return to work. It also means that their important work getting the economy back on its feet, ensuring Americans’ safety and keeping critical construction projects moving will be able to continue.