WASHINGTON— Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also is chairman of the Democratic National Convention, on Wednesday criticized the Washington establishment – especially Republicans — for letting partisan bickering stall action, especially denouncing delays in passing a $109 billion highway funding bill.
At a Politico Playbook Breakfast hosted by Mike Allen, Villaraigosa chastised congressional Republicans for failing to support popular measures solely on the basis of partisanship. He cited the transportation bill, which would extend aid to highway and transit programs, currently held up in Congress as an example of political polarization hijacking essential legislation.
“It seems that every year this place gets more partisan,” Villaraigosa said. “The surface transportation bill is a no-brainer. We gotta invest in our roads, bridges, highways and public transportation. It’s just an uphill slog pushing this bill up the hill.”
The Senate was scheduled to debate the bill later Wednesday.
Villaraigosa is in Washington with Los Angeles civic leaders lobbying to get the transportation bill passed. As president of the United States Conference of Mayors, he noted that group’s support for the transportation bill. He said the traditionally popular cause of transportation funding has become another attack zone for ideological agendas.
“Since the Erie Canal, infrastructure investment has been bipartisan,” Villaraigosa said. “The idea that now this is somehow a partisan issue…it boggles the mind.”
According to Villaraigosa, the blame belongs to House Republicans. He said if a similar plan were proposed by anyone but President Barack Obama, it would be passed.
“If the president is for it, the House is against it,” Villaraigosa said. “Things they have been for for generations, the president says he is for and Congress is against them.”
The mayor did not mince words when expressing his disdain for the current path of the Republican Party. He said the party is losing touch with most Americans and is on the way to becoming “the Whig Party of the next millennia.”
“When you hear the Republican candidates on immigration, when you hear them talk about social issues and on the economy, it’s clear to me that they are moving farther and father away form the mainstream,” Villaraigosa said.
He said the party has already lost the Latino vote now and for many years to come. He pointed to Mitt Romney’s opposition to the DREAM Act, a proposal to help immigrants in good standing achieve permanent residence, as a definitive instance.
“When he calls the DREAM Act a handout. it’s a slap in the face to the men and women in the military,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s a slap in the face to the American dream.”
Last month Villaraigosa was named chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He said he hopes to have a marriage equality plank added to the democratic platform. He said the right to marriage for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexual couples is “important to who we all are.”
Although many in California have speculated that Villaraigosa will one day run for governor, the soon-to-be term-limited mayor said he is focused on the present.
“I want to finish it strong,” Villaraigosa said. “I want to do as much as I can to put the city on a sustainable path.”