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Mr. COONS. Madam President, I rise because this week, once again, the Senate of the United States has the opportunity to create jobs, to find a way to work together to make a real difference in the long-term strength of this Nation, and to finally punch back against this recession which has taken so much from the working families of our States.
I rise in support of the Rebuilding America Jobs Act, a bill that will invest $60 billion in our Nation's crumbling infrastructure and put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work.
Investments in America's infrastructure are investments in America's future, and they could not come at a more critical time for our country, our communities, or our future.
The rest of the world is pouring money into its infrastructure because they know it will not only make it easier for them to recover from this recession; they know it will make them more competitive for their long-term future, for their people, for their countries, for their economies. So at a time when our competitors are pouring money into fixing, expanding, building their infrastructure, we have turned off the spigot. We are starving our roads and our bridges, our sewers and our water systems, our tunnels, our ports, our runways, our railroad tracks. We are starving them of the repairs they need to function properly--not just today but to lay the groundwork for our competitiveness for the next generation of Americans.
China, one of our greatest economic competitors, is spending 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. As anyone who has visited China in recent years knows, all across the nation of China there are gleaming new highway systems, brandnew ports, brandnew airports and runways, brandnew transportation infrastructure that connects newly built cities leaping from the ground as if by magic because they have invested enormous amounts in a modern infrastructure. Europe broadly is investing 5 percent of GDP in modernizing their infrastructure. In the United States, where modern infrastructure has for a generation made us the envy of the world, we are investing just 2 percent--just 2 percent--of our GDP. This is foolish.
Few people argue that infrastructure isn't important. In fact, it is one of the few things that seem to enjoy broad support in this Chamber, in this city, and in this country. Folks as disparate as the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree that investing in modernizing our infrastructure is critical, not just for putting Americans back to work but getting America working for our country's future. They both support the idea of an infrastructure bank because they know investing in infrastructure isn't just about rebuilding our roads, it is about rebuilding our economy.
When companies make decisions about where to locate, about where to build a new factory, about where to expand production, about where to lease a new office, infrastructure is always at or near the top of their list. Proximity to a highway means everything if someone is going to run or expand a factory. Being close to a port is critical if their products need to be exported overseas. Access to airports and railways is imperative if someone wants to do business outside their community or our country. High-speed Internet can be every bit as important as these century-old transportation technologies and can be every bit as important as clean water, modern ports or new railroads.
Infrastructure is important in every State of our Nation and especially so in my coastal State of Delaware. The Port of Wilmington brings 4 million tons of goods through Delaware each year, providing high-wage, high-skilled jobs for the longshoremen and the communities immediately around our port that rely so much on its vital link to the global economy. Railways allow Amtrak to connect businessmen and women from New York to our financial services sector, to our legal and banking community in Wilmington, and it is one of the busiest railroad stations in America. I-95, the east coast corridor, connects truckers and motorists up and down the east coast to our little State.
But as folks have known for too long, one of the worst choke points in the whole East Coast on I-95 was in our State. I used to get calls all the time in my role as county executive because folks mistakenly thought it was somehow my role to modernize this highway. It was John F. Kennedy who cut the ribbon on this modern interstate highway, and we, frankly, have failed to invest in keeping up with the times, in keeping up with the growth in traffic, in keeping up with the tempo of global commerce since then.
Delaware has finally solved these problems. With the leadership of the Obama administration and this Chamber, the investments that were made in infrastructure over the last 2 years, we finally have solved that chokepoint on I-95. Today, motorists move through at great speeds--pay their tolls to Delaware, yes--and are able to get on their way, north or south, and engage in commerce at the speed that the modern economy demands. That is what we seek to do nationwide. That is what the Rebuilding America Jobs Act can do.
For the last 25 or 30 years, we have been building off the infrastructure built by our parents' generation, hoping that a little bandage here, a little ointment there, a little wire, a little bubble gum would be enough to get us through another year. But that is not a strategy for laying the groundwork for a great future for our children. It is not even a strategy for keeping up. The chokepoints on America's roads can't be allowed to choke America's economy for the next generation. One-third of our Nation's major roadways are in poor or even mediocre condition, and one-quarter of our bridges have been rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. We have even faced the human suffering and the reputational disaster of having bridges collapse across this country in recent years. We have failed to invest in our future. As a country, we can keep swerving to avoid these potholes, but eventually we are going to hit them.
The Rebuilding America Jobs Act would fill that pothole, would make smooth the rough places of this Nation, and accelerate our economic growth for the future. I am a cosponsor of the Rebuilding America Jobs Act because this bill would fill the pothole we have been avoiding for decades. It would rebuild 150,000 miles of American roadways, maintain 4,000 miles of train tracks, upgrade 150 miles of airport runways. It would restore critical drinking water and wastewater systems for our communities, and strengthen our energy infrastructure. In short, it would make us competitive. It would put people back to work. It would get us on the right road to a sustained recovery. It would put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work in that sector of economy that took the first and hardest hit from the recession.
More than 2 million Americans who worked in construction have lost their jobs since this tragic recession hit, including 8,000 in my home State of Delaware alone, and we have thousands of folks in the skilled building trades ready to go. They need us to get over our differences, find a way past these endless, mindless filibusters, and get them to work. This week we have an opportunity to invest in those people and invest in our country.
Infrastructure is such a smart investment, and in this economy and in this competitive global environment where our allies and competitors are outstripping our investment because they see clearly the road to the future, we simply cannot afford to continue to refuse to act.
It was 1 year ago today that the people of Delaware elected me to represent them in Washington. Every day since I have wondered when this Chamber was finally going to come together across the partisan divide and start moving on jobs. The persistent partisanship here that has plagued this body is in my view not worthy of the very real human needs of the people who sent us here.
Last month, folks in this Congress, mostly from the other party, prevented us from acting on jobs--not once, not twice, but several times. I do not understand the strategy here, but the endless filibusters must stop. I know there is debate over how we are going to pay for this particular proposal to put $60 billion into infrastructure, but as Senator Bingaman commented just before me, this is a modest increase in revenue from the very wealthiest Americans that I believe is justified in this critical economic time. Too many of my neighbors, too many of my constituents, are out of work.
I don't think we have a choice. We need to act. The President is right, we cannot wait to act. The Rebuilding America Jobs Act not only invests in America's jobs for today but in our economy tomorrow. We cannot wait any longer to fill this pothole. This bill deserves bipartisan support and I hope my colleagues will join me in voting for it this week.
I yield the floor.
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