The following are the prepared remarks of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) from today’s opening debate on the Speaker’s partisan infrastructure wish list bill (H.R. 2):
We’re here today to talk about improving America’s infrastructure, something that we all agree needs to be done. But if we were serious about doing that, we would be taking up a bipartisan bill to fix our highways, bridges, and transit systems. Let’s remember, three months from now, highway and transit programs are going to shut down if we do not act.
Every Democrat and every Republican participating today knows that a bipartisan agreement is the only way we’re going to get this done. And that’s why H.R. 2 – which is nothing more than an enormous partisan wish list – is going nowhere. Just like the HEROES Act.
If this was a serious effort, we wouldn’t be talking about passing on $1.5 trillion in debt to future generations. We would be talking about real proposals to fix the finances of the Highway Trust Fund.
Instead, the Majority is pointing fingers at the President and Republicans, despite the fact they wrote this entire partisan proposal in the Speaker’s office. But they want the American people to believe it’s Republicans’ fault they couldn’t figure out how to pay for their own bill.
If this were a serious effort, we wouldn’t be talking about tacking a multitude of unreasonable Green New Deal mandates onto our transportation programs. We would be talking about bipartisan climate solutions that address resiliency and actual identifiable, serious solutions, like those contained in the Republican alternative bill, the STARTER Act (H.R. 7248).
If this were a serious proposal, we wouldn’t be talking about creating more uncertainty and instability for states, transportation businesses, workers, and our economy, when everyone is crying out for certainty and relief right now. But that’s exactly what we’re considering today in H.R. 2.
This is a bill that was formed by the Speaker’s partisan agenda from the beginning and continued to balloon from there.
Just over a week ago, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the Majority’s $500 billion-dollar “My Way or the Highway” bill along party lines. Afterwards, the Speaker air-dropped in enough new and unvetted provisions to triple the size of the bill before rushing it to the floor.
I’m going to highlight just a few of the concerns with this bill.
First, $2 out of every $5 surface transportation dollars – that’s $200 billion – is spent on heavy-handed Green New Deal requirements.
This bill widens the gulf between rural and urban infrastructure by putting programs and policies that benefit urban areas ahead of rural communities. Following the money in the bill makes that clear: H.R. 2 directs the largest funding percentage increases to those programs.
This bill also puts restrictions on building new roads, which further hamstrings small communities looking to grow. How can a bill that prevents states from building the roads they need be called an “infrastructure bill”?
These are just some of the ways this bill limits state and local flexibility to make decisions that best fit their own priorities.
This bill fails to provide commonsense streamlining reforms widely supported by transportation businesses and workers – including reforms that were unanimously approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Projects that take years and even decades to get approved cost more the longer they’re delayed, so that means reducing delays has the same impact as additional funding. But this bill does nothing to make reviews more efficient.
Finally, this bill relies on yet another general fund bailout – and with the irresponsible spending proposed in this bill, the trust fund bailout will cost more than every extension and bill combined since 2008 and doesn’t even attempt to fix the solvency issues with the Highway Trust Fund. This is completely irresponsible.
If this messaging bill passes the House, that’s as far as it will go. It won’t do a single thing to improve America’s infrastructure.
There’s been so much uncertainty and unpredictability created by the COVID-19 pandemic across our Nation. What our transportation businesses and workers need right now is stability, but this partisan process and seismic upheaval of our federal transportation programs robs them of that. This bill does nothing to move us forward and that is truly a shame.
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