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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3408, Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act; Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3813, Securities Annuities for Federal Employees Act of 2012;

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Oh, my goodness, I don't even know where to begin. I first would like to publicly thank the Reading Clerk for his patience in slogging through the reading of this terribly complicated and confusing rule. I think the mere reading of this rule says it all, demonstrating how messed up this process is.

Madam Speaker, Speaker Boehner used to be fond of criticizing bills by saying, they wouldn't pass the ``straight face'' test. Well, let me tell you, I'm having trouble keeping a straight face right now, not when I look at this incredibly partisan, slapdash set of bills before us, not when I look at the awful, convoluted process that got us here.

Madam Speaker, this process is an absolute travesty. The Republican leadership took a thousand-page bill--the most partisan transportation bill in congressional history--and made it worse. They took a bill that was written in secret and jammed through the Transportation Committee and inserted unrelated and controversial provisions like Keystone pipeline, ANWR, offshore drilling, and cuts in Federal pensions. Even worse, they changed the rules in the middle of the game because yesterday morning, after everyone had submitted their amendments to the original single bill, Speaker Boehner decided to split it into three separate measures, and he said it was in the name of transparency. Transparency? Give me a break. It was more like the Valentine's Day massacre of transparency.

You know a bill is bad when the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are all opposed to how it's structured. Talk about strange bedfellows.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican Congressman, called H.R. 7 ``the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen,'' and ``the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service.''

The chairman of the Transportation Committee calls this a bipartisan product. Madam Speaker, making Democratic amendments in order in and of itself and then defeating them doesn't make a bill bipartisan. Transportation bills, by their nature, have always been truly bipartisan, written together by the majority and minority. Republicans and Democrats in the past have not only worked in good faith on this bill, but they have put their differences aside and did their jobs. I should know. I served on the Transportation Committee during a Republican-controlled House in my first term, and I served as a conferee to the 1998 reauthorization bill.

Yet H.R. 7 abandons years of good-faith efforts by members of both parties to thoughtfully and responsibly craft a bipartisan transportation bill that reflects the priorities and vital importance of infrastructure investments across this country. H.R. 7 slashes investments in Federal highways by $15.8 billion from current levels over the bill's duration. It does so at a time when our roads and bridges are crumbling before our eyes. This bill ignores that harsh reality. It guts transit funding by de-linking dedicated Federal funding from the highway trust fund and lumping it in with a smorgasbord of other transportation accounts that will be forced to compete for annual appropriations.

What's most egregious and irresponsible about this bill--worse than the hyperpartisanship, worse than the atrocious process--is that this bill will result in 550,000 job losses. We should be focused, Madam Speaker, on creating good jobs in manufacturing and construction--two sectors hardest hit with job losses--not kicking them while they're already down.

And like so many other bills, Republicans couldn't let an opportunity pass to help their friends at Big Oil. Oil companies are making more money, hand over fist, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in record profits every year. Now we're seeing gas prices rise again. Yet Republicans continue to provide $40 billion worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies to companies that don't need them and don't deserve them.

Last night in the Rules Committee, I tried to end taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil. But instead of asking ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Shell, and other Big Oil companies to pay their fair share while prices at the pump rise, the Republicans doubled down for their corporate friends and blocked my amendment. I offered it three different ways last night, and all three ways were rejected, not even given the courtesy of consideration on this House floor. I will offer it again today, if the Rules Committee meets, but I have no doubt the other side will continue what they usually do: stand with Big Oil and continue to block my amendment.

Allowing more oil and gas drilling off our coasts and opening up the treasured Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling will do nothing to lower gas prices in the short term, let alone pay for this bill. At best, it will be years before any money would come from the new drilling areas.

And let's not forget the Keystone provision that's jammed in here that would automatically deem--I used the word ``deem''--the environmentally harmful pipeline approved.

Oh, and then there's the provision to force Federal employees--who are currently under a 2-year pay freeze--to nearly triple their contributions to their Federal retirement accounts. The Republican leadership has, once again, found a way to take a swipe at Federal employees, even in a surface transportation bill.

This part is really confusing. The Republicans are using this attack on Federal employees to pay for the highway bill, but they are also, apparently--according to press reports--using the same revenue to pay for the payroll tax extension. Perhaps my friend from Florida--and I'm happy to yield to him--could explain to us how they expect to use the same pot of money to pay for two separate things.

Well, maybe we'll get an answer later on in the debate.

Madam Speaker, Democrats want a fully funded, commonsense transportation bill that puts people back to work. We want a bill that makes our roads and bridges safer, not more dangerous. We want a bill that is good for America. This is not that bill. This bill before us is nothing but red meat political propaganda at its worst. It simply makes no sense. It will not become law. We should scrap this bill and start over and do it the right way. That's the way we've always done it. We should do it in a bipartisan way, come together, and help to get a really good transportation bill that will put people back to work.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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