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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. SHUSTER. I thank the chairman.

Listening to the last speaker, I believe that the other side of the aisle has got a case of amnesia because I was here in 2007 and 2011 when they had the majority in the House, the majority in the Senate, and the Presidency, and they did nothing. Well, that's not true. In fact, the last speaker, the gentleman from Oregon, he was the chair of the Highway Subcommittee; and we passed a bill by voice vote out of the subcommittee, a Democratic version. Voice vote. That means it came out of subcommittee in a bipartisan way.

Now, there was a lot in that bill I didn't like. But it was probably what the gentleman from Oregon, the last speaker, and the majority party wanted to do was to expand government control of the highway system, expand the decision-making process to the bureaucrats in Washington instead of allowing the people in the States to make more of those decisions.

So it's startling to me to hear the criticism and insults hurled at our side of the aisle. I do take offense to the fact that he said we hate America. We love America. We love the American people and the wisdom of the American people and the wisdom of those in State government to make decisions, also.

I believe there is a national role in the transportation system in this country. It is a national policy. It's based on our founding. It's our history. We've always been part of this national system. So I want to pass a bill, a 5-year bill. I don't believe my colleagues have gone home and listened to their DOT directors and the people that build roads and sell equipment and the business people. They want a 5-year bill. They do not want a 2-year bill because they won't make decisions on expanding their businesses, buying equipment, hiring people on an 18-month bill.

And oh, by, the way, by the time we pass--if we pass--the Senate bill, it will be a 16-month bill. It's just another extension. It doesn't have reforms in it. Our bill does reform. It will allow that $260 billion to be spent faster. And anybody that's been in business and had to deal with the day in and day out knows that time is money. If it takes 14 to 15 years to build a highway versus 7 or 8, that's going to cost us a lot more money. That's common sense. That's why this 5-year bill is a commonsense bill and we need to pass it.

But I've come here on the floor today to debate not the 5-year bill because I believe it's the best way to go; I've come here to support the bipartisan agreement--I thought it was a bipartisan agreement; I guess we'll find out shortly--a bipartisan agreement for a 60-day clean extension that will give us the time to move forward and put a commonsense bill on the floor that will encourage growth in America. It will encourage people to hire and invest in their businesses when they're building roads and bridges in this country.

Failing to pass this extension is really not an option, so I hope that my friends will get behind this extension and pass it so that we can work to pass a bill that makes a lot of sense--and that is H.R. 7--and that will help to create jobs.

Again, I would remind my colleagues if they're watching this or colleagues in the Chamber, from 2007 to 2011 our Democratic colleagues that controlled both branches of government, both Houses of Congress, did not pass a highway bill. They passed a stimulus bill that didn't work. Only 8 percent of it went to highway and infrastructure projects. We as Republicans offered an alternative: half of the amount of money that the Democrats passed, and half of that money going to rebuilding our infrastructure.

If they truly cared about rebuilding the infrastructure of this country, they would have passed a highway bill from 2007 to 2011, but they failed to do it; and now they've come to the floor to criticize our side. And we've worked very, very hard. Chairman Mica has put together a bill that really does do significant reform. And I don't know why the other side resists reform when we can spend money quicker and we can get that money out there and rebuild the roads and bridges we need today.

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Mr. SHUSTER. I thank the gentleman from Florida, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to ask my Democratic colleagues, following up on the distinguished leader's question but with a little twist to it, why didn't your side, when you had control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, why didn't you pass a bill, a highway bill? You had the votes. You could have done anything you wanted to.

In fact, the former distinguished Speaker that just spoke said that this is going to be the biggest jobs bill we pass. I thought your stimulus was supposed to be the biggest jobs bill we ever passed. It's amazing to me to come down here on the floor--and I have so much respect for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle--but to hear this argument going round and round, and as I said earlier, there's amnesia on the other side of the aisle. You had control of Congress. The bill expired in 2009. You still had control of both Houses and the Presidency. You didn't pass a bill.

I also would like to make note, if you look back in the history of the highway bill, we've never been in the financial situation that we are today. We've never faced the kind of debt that we face today. And what this bill does is it lives within our means. But it does more than just that, living within our means, which we should do, and I would add, Thomas Jefferson would be appalled if he saw the kind of debt we've racked up today. He would be appalled by that.

So we're living within our means, and we're streamlining the process. We are saying we can do more with less if we change the process. The Senate bill doesn't have the kind of reforms. What the Senate bill does is it bankrupts the highway trust fund. It bankrupts the highway trust fund. And then we even have a bigger problem 2 years down the road, actually maybe 18 months, maybe 17 months, probably 16 months by the time we get it passed. The Senate bill requires States to incorporate livability and smart growth policies, as if the States aren't smart enough to do it themselves? As if the States and cities in this country can't figure out how they want to improve the livability of their cities? No. The Federal Government has to do it. The Federal Government has to insist that they do that.

Look, I think that Members of Congress ought to have the ability to direct where some of these funds go, but the Senate bill, what it allows are the bureaucrats.

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Mr. SHUSTER. The bureaucrats in Washington will decide how the money is spent, not even the folks back in the States. The Senate fails to streamline the project delivery process which we do. That will allow us to build roads faster, and time is money. Anybody that's been in business knows time is money. And that is extremely important to this. The Senate bill discourages private sector investment, and it increases the regulation. Like I said, this bill is a good bill, it's a solid bill, it's one that the people out there want to see, a 5-year bill, not a 17- or 16-month extension.

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