Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) from today’s markup of surface transportation reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2):
Thank you, Chairman DeFazio.
Every single one of us knows that our roads, bridges, and public transportation systems need to be fixed, improved, and modernized.
And I really wish we were here to meet those goals. The way this Committee has proven it can successfully reauthorize these critical programs, over and over again, is through partnership – not partisanship.
Going back through the FAST Act, MAP-21, SAFETEA-LU, TEA-21, and the 1991 law ISTEA – all of those laws came about through bipartisanship.
Throughout this entire process, Committee Republicans were ready to bring our priorities to the table, discuss them in the context of the Majority’s priorities, and look for common ground. And surely there was common ground to be found, including on resiliency and climate issues. Believe it or not, Republicans don’t automatically oppose addressing these issues. But many of us do oppose the way this particular bill goes about it – through overreaching and heavy-handed mandates. There is a difference between addressing the issue and transforming every single core infrastructure program into a climate change program.
As a result, we’re not marking up a bipartisan “Highway Bill” today – we’re marking up the Majority’s “My Way or the Highway Bill.” Maybe that was inevitable, given the partisan agenda the Speaker has been pursuing throughout this Congress.
And thanks to the Speaker’s agenda, we’re now considering a $500 billion-dollar bill that we don’t know how to pay for. Although to pay for it with the gas tax, we’d have to double it at a time when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic.
Thanks to the Speaker’s partisan agenda, this bill also focuses heavily on meeting the goals of the Green New Deal rather than carrying out the core functions of our infrastructure. It includes new grant programs and mandates that are hammered onto our existing programs and siphon off funding from core programs, including those for fixing our roads and bridges. When you add it up, $2 out of every $5 spent by this bill – $200 billion in total – is tied up in trying to meet the goals of the Green New Deal.
The Speaker’s partisan agenda means this bill will force many communities – including rural, small, and suburban communities looking to grow – to choose transit and rail service over building roads they actually need. That is not an exaggeration – their bill literally places restrictions on building new roads. In many ways, this bill puts the needs of urban centers over the needs of rural America, with the largest funding percentage increases, by far, going to rail and transit.
The bill’s top-down approach means less flexibility for states and our non-federal partners to address their priorities.
This bill ignores the outcry from labor and business leaders who strongly support streamlining the project review process and putting in place reasonable limits and timetables – without harming environmental protections. This is something that has support from both parties but apparently is not endorsed by the Speaker’s radical environmental allies.
Ultimately, this bill is a costly, seismic shift in our transportation programs, at an incredibly uncertain time when no one knows whether COVID-19 will alter the way people get around.
I believe this is the wrong bill at the wrong time.
My Republican colleagues and I remain ready to work on a serious effort to develop a serious bipartisan bill – the same way we’re working on WRDA right now. But like I said, this “My Way or the Highway” bill is not a serious bipartisan effort.
Click here for more information on today’s markup.
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