Republicans have a message for federal safety regulators who want to lower the legal alcohol limit for drivers dramatically: Washington needs to butt out, Politico reports. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill said the legal limit on blood-alcohol content should be left to state legislatures, not bureaucrats and politicians in Washington. While the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendations are nonbinding, Republicans are warning the government against withholding federal funding from — or offering financial incentives to — states to prod them to adopt tougher drunken driving laws.
“I think it's a state issue,” declared Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Commerce Committee and the GOP leadership team. Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, concurred: “That would be a state issue — that would be my belief.” Tying federal highway dollars to states' drunken driving laws is a bipartisan practice that goes back decades. The Reagan administration used the threat of lost money to get states to raise their drinking age to 21 in the 1980s, and Congress used similar leverage to prod states to reduce the blood-alcohol threshold to 0.08 percent in the past decade. Still, federal meddling with state dollars has often been described as “blackmail or bribery,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY.)