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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill, H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II.

Transportation policy has been and should be bipartisan. In fact, it's largely considered nonpartisan across our country, where mayors and county commissioners rely on and expect certainty from Washington with regard to necessary investments in infrastructure and mass transit.

Yet, instead, here again, with this bill, politics has been injected into a process that has long been both bipartisan and an engine of our economic dynamo that ties our country together through our transportation infrastructure. Instead of creating jobs and advancing our economy, here we are with a bill that offers further delays, crippling States' and localities' ability to plan and fund projects and put Americans back to work.

The bill before us provides yet another short-term extension, the 10th extension since the last highway law expired in 2009. The facts on the ground aren't changing. Whether we extend this for 2 months or 3 months or 1 month, we'll be back here again with the same facts on the ground, the same looming fiscal crisis at the Federal level, the same need for infrastructure at the State and local levels.

So what facts are new? And what's the justification for such a short-term extension?

As we stand here today to vote on another transportation extension, 50 percent of our roads have been identified as in disrepair; 70,000 bridges are structurally deficient and potentially dangerous.

We need to make investments in our Nation's highways and transit projects--that much Republicans and Democrats can agree on--to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century. Yet, instead, this short-term bill before us represents another missed opportunity to make these critical investments for our country's future.

The impact of voting on another short-term extension is not insignificant. As a former small business owner myself, I know very well the importance of certainty in business planning. Rather than providing States with the confidence they need to pass long-term projects planned for them and plan their highways, and for construction companies to gear up, this bill prolongs the uncertainty, which only increases costs, contributing to the deficit and contributing to taxpayers getting a worse deal for their investment at the State and local levels.

The underlying bill only allows States and localities to plan for one short construction season. What guidance do they have for the next construction season? How can bidders and contractors offer their best pricing when they don't even know if there will be a paycheck after this building season?

As the bipartisan National Governors Association has said, a string of short-term extensions will only increase uncertainty for State and local governments and the private sector. Yes, this approach will actually increase costs, rather than decrease costs.

We should be voting, instead, on the bipartisan comprehensive transportation bill that the Senate has already passed that, if this House brought to the floor, I'm confident would pass and that President Obama would sign. It passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 74 22.

The Senate bill maintains critical investments in our highways and public transportation, improves accountability through asset-management plans, and establishes performance measures so States are accountable for using their funds efficiently.

Extremely disappointing is the transportation policy, an issue that has long been bipartisan in its support, which has turned into a political football in this Congress. The House majority has continued to offer partisan bills that would weaken our economy and create uncertainty. This time, the majority has crafted a transportation bill by linking it to unnecessary and unrelated politically motivated riders. It is a completely unrelated Christmas tree of a bill that we see before us with elements that have nothing to do with our transportation and infrastructure.

Almost as appalling as the riders in the bill are the restrictive rules before us. This rule only made in order three Republican amendments, completely shutting out all Democratic, and even some Republican, ideas. When it comes to transportation policy, this body should be considering amendments under an open process that allows Members of both parties to bring forward their ideas to save taxpayer money and to invest in infrastructure. Unfortunately, thoughtful amendments were not made in order in this process, including some that I will discuss later in the debate.

Because this rule and the underlying bill represent some of the worst partisanship that I've seen in the 3 years I've been here, I strongly oppose them both. I urge my colleagues in the House to reject this approach, to reject this rule, to reject this bill, and to bring up the Senate bill and to bring it quickly to passage in the House so that we can send it to President Obama in order to reauthorize transportation in a bipartisan way, one that reflects our values as Americans.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to ensure that the House votes on H.R. 14, a bill brought forth by Representative Tim Bishop and Representative Corrine Brown containing the text of the Senate transportation bill, S. 1813, which passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 74 22.

To discuss our amendment to the rule, I am proud to yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Brown).

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Mr. POLIS. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Again, there were several amendments offered in Rules Committee to make this bill better. To help reduce the budget deficit, my colleague, Mr. McGovern, introduced an amendment ending $40 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. As the gentlelady said, that has nothing to do with the price of gas. Getting rid of subsidies to oil companies doesn't make gas more affordable. But the question is: Why are we giving money to oil and gas companies at a time when we have a national deficit? Why don't they pay taxes like every other company?

I was a small businessman before I got here, and the companies that I was involved with had to pay taxes. What I don't understand is why economically a tax subsidy is any different than an expenditure subsidy. And economists across the ideological spectrum would agree corporate welfare is a government giveaway, whether it appears on the tax line or the expenditure line.

Specifically, with regard to any tax breaks to the oil and gas industry, Mr. McGovern's amendment, which is, unfortunately, ruled out of order for this bill, would end the section 451 credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells, the section 43 credit for enhanced oil recovery, the section 263 provision allowing the existing expansion of intangible drilling costs, and a number of other provisions that in effect give oil and gas companies a lower tax rate than other companies in this country.

Why don't we use that money to reduce the deficit? Why don't we use that money to bring down the corporate tax rate overall, as is a key component of corporate tax reform, which I strongly support and discussed with Mr. Brady in our Rules Committee yesterday with regard to the other bill which moves in the wrong direction with regard to bringing down our tax rates and having a simpler Tax Code?

Mr. McGovern has offered a similar amendment to save the U.S. Government $40 billion to reduce our deficit to several different bills in the past, including through an appropriations bill, an energy bill, a tax bill. Every single time the Republicans have said, Oh, it's not germane to this bill. Every single time they voted the McGovern amendment down.

Clearly, this is a proposal that's worthy of discussion. If it's not a tax discussion and not an energy discussion, not an expenditure discussion, what kind of discussion is it? And why can't we be talking about reducing the deficit here on the floor of the House instead of continuing to spend unnecessary money on subsidies? It's funny how the majority party waives rules when it's convenient for their agenda but refuses to apply a consistent standard to an amendment that is worthy of consideration by this House.

At the same time oil companies have record profits, we're continuing to subsidize oil injection, extraction, exploration, drilling, manufacturing, pricing, and inventory valuing by creating price floors, offsetting taxes, providing generous credits and deductions, providing tax shelters, and allowing the valuation of inventories at deeply discounted prices. If we are serious about deficit reduction, let us take this opportunity to vote down this rule and allow for the discussion of the McGovern amendment. We need to close these loopholes and allow for real deficit reduction.

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment to the rule in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

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Mr. POLIS. This amendment is the Bishop bill and the Corrine Brown bill, which would simply allow the House the opportunity to vote on the Senate bill, which, given the strong bipartisan majority in the Senate, I believe would pass the House of Representatives. At least let's give it a chance. Let's give the House a chance to work its will, Democrats and Republicans, and see where we really are with regard to this Congress' commitment to critical infrastructure needs in this country. Voting down this rule would be the first step in allowing Mr. Bishop and Ms. Brown to come forward with the Senate bill for consideration in this House, which would provide some certainty to State and local planners, allowing them to reduce costs and get better value for the taxpayer dollar.

I also strongly encourage the majority to consider allowing amendments and good ideas from both sides of the aisle in bills like the transportation bill, and let us work to find an appropriate time and an appropriate place for the consideration of Mr. McGovern's bill and Mr. McGovern's amendment. And whether the proceeds are used to reduce the deficit or bring down corporate taxes or some split thereof, or other worthy public purposes, surely we can at this juncture, when we cannot afford the government we have, help reduce the size and the scope of government by ending subsidies and giveaways to big multinational oil companies.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question. I strongly urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of time.

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