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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I am going to speak for about 10 minutes. If someone else comes to the floor, I will be happy to shorten that, but I had to come to the floor to support the leadership of Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma, who have worked for over a year to bring a very balanced and fundamentally important and essential infrastructure bill to the floor of the House.
We have many arguments on this floor. We have been arguing about judges. I heard Senator Grassley give a pretty tough speech voicing his opinion of some of our Supreme Court Justices. I do not agree with much of what he said, but he is entitled to his opinion. We have those debates. There are good people on both sides. We are debating oil taxes and whether the oil industry is paying too much or too little. You could have arguments about that.
But even our children in kindergarten and even our citizens who do not pay attention to some more difficult arguments understand roads, bridges, and mass transit. They understand hardhat jobs. They see people every day laying bricks, pouring concrete, going to work at steel mills and factories that produce the materials that build our infrastructure. They drive over potholes all day long. They ride down the interstates with 18-wheelers whizzing by them in smaller cars because they are trying to be more fuel efficient, with their heart in their chest, with their children in the backseat, and they look up to Congress, to the House of Representatives, and say: Where is our Transportation bill?
This Transportation bill was not written by one Senator and voted on by a slim majority. This Transportation bill that the House refuses to even consider was built by one of the more progressive and one of the most conservative Members of this body. It was voted on almost unanimously out of committee, brought to the floor of the Senate just a couple of weeks ago, and received over 75 votes in a body that cannot decide about our judges, really, we can't decide about the post office, we can't decide about oil and gas taxes. But 75 of us said that we are tired of running our highways and our transit on 90-day, 30-day, 60-day extensions. I think this is the 26th short-term extension since 2009. What way is this to run a government?
For the other side of this building that talks about putting business practices to work, let's be more efficient in the way we operate, and let's operate more like a business, do you know, Mr. President, any business in America, large or small, that operates with a 30-day vision?
Do you know one? I don't know one. I understand businesses have 6-month plans, a year, but they always have that 5-year long range. They might have 6-month goals. I don't know one business in America that operates on a 30-day plan.
Here we are at the ninth hour again. We have a bill. We produced a bill. If the House had a bill--I am a centrist--if the House had a bill, I would be working with the middle of the road over there, trying to say: This is what your bill does. This is what our bill does. We can't have our way completely here in the Senate, although I would like to have our way more of the time, but I understand.
They do not have a bill. They do not have a bill to negotiate because they cannot even get a bill together among the three committees of jurisdiction over there.
Again, if they had a bill, I know Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe would be happy to negotiate. Maybe they want a 4-year bill, we want a 2, maybe we negotiate a 3. They don't like the mass-transit portion; we like the mass-transit portion; we could come to some terms. They don't like the way the formula works; we like the general way the formula works; we could come to terms. I understand that.
But what I do not understand, what no one in the country understands--what the mayors are having a hard time understanding, what the Governors are having a hard time understanding and the businesses that operate in my State, represented by the chamber of commerce, the NFIB, and the Main Street Alliance of small businesses from the left to the center to the right--what they do not understand is how you do not have a bill at all and you have not been able to put one together. We have now been in this Congress for a year and a half. You have had 1 1/2 years to put a bill together, and you have not come up with one.
We put one together that looks pretty good. No one that I know of from any group has said anything really bad about our bill. It is pretty plain in one sense. It is not changing the course of Western civilization; it is just trying to fund roads, bridges, and transit, which is fundamental to the operations not only of our government but our economy and, frankly, the economy of the world because without highways it is hard to import or export products. This bill has impacts way beyond America.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how the House of Representatives is going to leave and go on vacation and think they have done their job by giving us another 90-day extension.
I do not know what the leadership is going to do, but I want my vote recorded as no. I am not going to hold up everybody here over the holidays, but I want to say that I want my vote recorded as no. I am not going to continue to support 30-day, 60-day, 90-day extensions to a transportation bill that really, in the scheme of things, should not be that complicated to pass. There are other much more controversial things about which we could be having very serious debates. Building highways and roads and transit should not be one of them.
We are hurting jobs. We heard the Republicans--I cannot blame the Republicans in the Senate. I think they have been for the most part really terrific, actually, working with Senator Boxer. They have even given a majority of the votes. So I guess my focus is really on the Republicans in the House. I don't think they have taken the time to really look at the Senate bill to see how balanced it is, and one part I wish they would read, which is the part I want to talk about for the next 5 minutes--and I know other Senators are here to speak--I hope the gulf coast Members from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida--and together that is a pretty big coalition; I don't know the total number, but I think there have to be over 75 Members from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida--I hope they read the section of the Transportation bill that talks about the RESTORE Act.
I have spent a great deal of time over here with my good friend and wonderful leader, Senator Shelby, with Senator Boxer, with over 300 organizations, for over a year, to build a bill that is now part of the Transportation bill that, in addition to building highways in Florida and transit and roads in Alabama and Mississippi, will also for the first time in the history of our country--the first time--direct a significant portion of penalty money paid by a polluter, BP, that polluted the gulf coast--a good company in some ways but really messed up that well, though, and they just spilled gallons and gallons and millions of barrels of oil. We have shrimp that are coming in our nets with no eyes. We have turtles that are washing up on our shores dead. We have research needs in the gulf coast that--there has been no time in our history where we have needed that money more.
My question is to the gulf coast Republican Members and Democratic Members. What is it about this bill that is driving you so crazy that you can't accept $10 billion that the Federal Government is trying to give you?
Because that is what the RESTORE Act could potentially send to the gulf coast, a portion of the fine. We don't know whether that fine is going to be $5 billion or $10 billion or $20 billion, but we do know it is going to be substantial because under current law they have to pay $1,000 for every barrel spilled or $4,200 if it was gross negligence.
In the Senate Transportation bill, this body showed rare bipartisan support and concern for the gulf coast, America's energy coast. We showed an understanding of the great erosion that is taking place in the delta of Louisiana, which drains 40 percent of the continent. We showed understanding that so much of our shipping and seafood industry relies on this coast--not that the other coasts are not vitally important--and we showed we understand the underinvestment that has been made. So 75 percent of the Senate basically stood and said: OK. Let's redirect this penalty money to where the injury is. That is the RESTORE Act, and that is in the Senate bill we sent over to the House, which they have absolutely just rejected.
I don't know what magic there is about the next 90 days, but I know what I am going to do. I am going to register my vote as no, and I am going to go home and work harder in Louisiana and along the gulf coast to explain to the people of our region how much is at stake by getting a longer term Transportation bill. Maybe 2 years is not as long as we would like to have, but it is better than 30 days, it is better than 60 days, and it is better than 90 days.
I will ask and explain that not only is the Transportation bill vital for Louisiana's projects but for approving the RESTORE Act, which I know the House has indicated their support for. They have indicated a support for the concept of the RESTORE Act, but the act itself is in the Transportation bill.
So I am going to wrap-up. There are other Members on the floor who will speak. I thank the leader, Barbara Boxer, who is here.
But for 90 days let's get back to work and go for a long-term Transportation bill that is a real jobs bill that will help the whole country but particularly the gulf coast with the RESTORE Act.
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