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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, where do I begin? This is one more opportunity lost, one more opportunity squandered by this Republican-controlled House.

We are just days away from the expiration of the laws that authorize our surface transportation programs, and yet here we are debating a politically charged, unnecessary, and partisan bill that just kicks the can down the road a few months.

Last month, this House began, but could not finish, consideration of the most partisan drafted--possibly the only partisan drafted--highway reauthorization bill in history. Let me repeat that. The House could not complete consideration of the Republican bill, a Republican bill that would have been considered a joke if it weren't such a serious breach of responsibility.

This is like a bad soap opera. Just when the twists and turns can't get more fantastical and crazy, someone comes up with an even zanier idea just to keep the plot lines moving along. I'm waiting for the mysterious twin brother to show up.

The plotline here is that the Republican leadership keeps manufacturing ways not to do the simple thing, the right thing, and that is to pass the Senate bill, the 2-year bill that passed the Senate 74 22, clearly and overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion.

It's refreshing and a bit strange when the Senate can put their ideological differences aside and actually pass a decent bill. It's not every day that Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator James Inhofe agree on a bill, but that's what happened with the Senate bill.

Now, I'm not going to stand here and say that the Senate bill is the bill I would have drafted. To the contrary, I want a 5-year reauthorization that is fully funded, a bill that results in real jobs and a bill that invests in important areas like public transit.

While the Senate bill lasts for only 2 years, it is a good start and it is much better than the Republican proposal we have here today. For my colleagues who have a short memory, let me recap where we were last month.

The Republican leadership took a 1,000-page bill, undoubtedly 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 the Keystone pipeline, ANWR, offshore drilling, and cuts in Federal pensions. Even worse, they changed the rules in the middle of the game. Specifically, after everyone had submitted their amendments to the original single bill, Speaker Boehner decided to split it into three separate measures, which meant that many of the amendments could not be considered in the way that they were originally drafted.

Now, of course the Republicans quickly realized that they didn't have the votes for that bill and yanked it from the floor. It must have been pretty embarrassing because it's been over a month since they gave up on that bill.

And what has the Republican leadership been doing over the last month? Negotiating with House Democrats to reach a bipartisan compromise? Talking with the Senate on ways to properly reauthorize these programs and bring jobs back to the economy? Of course not. Over the past month, the Republican leadership has been sitting around pointing fingers and complaining that they can't move the transportation bill, even though Republicans are in control of this House.

It's the end of March, and Republicans can't get their act together to get a real transportation bill passed. You call that leadership? Give me a break.

Leadership is about governing. Leadership is about doing what's right. Honestly, Mr. Speaker, there's no leadership here.

Shame on this leadership for bringing us here today. Shame on this leadership for putting the American jobs on the line just because they cannot manage their own internal politics. That's right. By refusing to pass the Senate bill today, Republicans are putting American jobs on the line.

With the economy slowly recovering and with more than 2.7 million construction and manufacturing workers still out of work, why do Republicans want to play Russian roulette with this important jobs bill?

We should not be in this position today. This is a manufactured crisis, a crisis that is a product of a lack of leadership, a crisis that is a product of a lack of bipartisan cooperation.

Mr. Speaker, we had an opportunity to consider the Senate bill today, but the Rules Committee, mislabeled by some as the most open Rules Committee in decades, blocked that bill from consideration.

That's right. This new majority put this bill on the floor, sight unseen, and without any markup or hearing. They waived their own 3-day layover rule, and this is a closed rule. In fact, I can't even seem to find a CBO score for this bill. And this is the open process my colleagues on the Rules Committee are so proud of.

This is a completely closed rule. I offered the Senate bill as an amendment to this rule last night so that Members could have an opportunity to vote on it today, not in place of the Republican bill, but as a stand-alone amendment.

Speaker Boehner is fond of saying, let the House work its will, but apparently the Republicans on the Rules Committee do not believe in that philosophy because they blocked my amendment on a party-line vote. Why did they block my amendment? As the chairman of the Rules Committee is fond of usually saying, because they could.

Now, I will try one more time to offer the Senate amendment. Congressman Tim Bishop introduced H.R. 14, the exact same language as the Senate-passed bill. If this House defeats the previous question, Congressman Bishop will be able to offer his amendment to the Republican bill, not in place of, just alongside the Republican bill. The House, like Speaker Boehner promised, would then be able to work its will.

Now, it's clear, Mr. Speaker, that the Republican leadership is more concerned with political victories than with legislating. It is clear that the Republican leadership would rather score cheap political points with their right-wing base than promote and create jobs in America.

President Clinton was fond of saying, The perfect can't be the enemy of the good. There's a perfectly good bipartisan Senate bill that would pass this House overwhelmingly if the Republican leadership decided to bring it up. But no, the Republican leadership would rather play chicken with people's jobs on the line instead of actually legislating, let alone legislating in a bipartisan way.

It is clear that when the far right wing of the far right wing opposes something, the Republican leadership crumbles like cheap asphalt.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me respond to my friend.

The difference is that we have an overwhelmingly bipartisan compromise that has passed one of the Chambers here, the Senate. This is the choice we have: Do we do these short-term extensions so that cities and towns and States can't plan, or do we take this bipartisan compromise that the Senate has put together so that there's some certainty for our cities and towns and for our States?

I mean, that's the difference. What's happening here is that there is an internal fight within the Republican Party. The right wing is battling with the extreme right wing, and they can't agree with each other because you have people in the Republican Party who don't believe in the public sector.

So, as this economy is struggling to get back on its feet and we see some recovery, more and more every month, we could actually help that recovery. We could move things along. We could create more jobs if we were to act in a different way today.

But, instead, the right wing and the extreme right wing are having a fight within the Republican Party, so the Republican House leadership is paralyzed. That's not leadership. That's just irresponsible.

At this point, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to thank my colleague on the Rules Committee for making, I think, a very strong case why we should reject the 90-day extension and pass a 2-year extension for this reason: because 90 days means nothing.

He diminishes the impact of 2 years. Most people I talk to would have preferred 2 years to 90 days. Here's the difference. We have a democratically controlled Senate that worked out a deal with Republicans. Barbara Boxer and Jim Inhofe came together. They are very opposite individuals when it comes to politics, but they came together.

Here, the Republicans are fighting Republicans. Democrats have been locked out of this entire process.

Let's get real here. Let's be honest with the American people. The budget that you all are going to vote for later this afternoon decimates highway and road and bridge funding, which basically destroys, I think, the basis for a strong infrastructure program in this country. You're not here trying to argue about a better bill. You're trying to figure out a way to give States less, to give cities and towns less. That would undercut a lot of the projects that are being contemplated all across this country that will not only put people back to work but make us more economically secure. That's what this is all about. It's about trying to come up with an even lousier transportation bill than the one that you brought to the House floor.

At this point, I would like to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Bishop).


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let's get the facts straight. Let's talk about this great bipartisan process.

All we're asking for today is to have an alternative to be voted on--one substitute. That's it. That's all we've been asking for; and we've been told, no, you can't. It's your way or the highway. That's not bipartisanship.

As for all of these great bipartisan amendments, let's everybody be clear on one thing: that not one single amendment has been considered to the transportation bill on this House floor. Not one single amendment has been allowed. You yanked the bill when, I guess, some of the extreme right wing of the extreme right wing got upset on your side for whatever reason, also because there were a lot of moderates who realized that the bill that you brought to the floor would bankrupt the highway trust fund, that it was bad policy for this country, and that it was not going to help rebuild our infrastructure.

So the only bipartisan proposal we have before us right now, which is not perfect but which is the only bipartisan product, is the Senate bill, which passed 74 22.

At this time, I would be happy to yield 1 minute to the ranking member of the Transportation Committee, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall).


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, before I yield to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), I just want to point out something for my colleagues here.

One of the reasons many of us prefer the Senate bill to even the House bill that you brought to the floor and then split up and then yanked from the floor is that the Senate bill sustains approximately 1.9 million jobs on an annual basis. The House Republican bill destroys 550,000 jobs compared to the current funding level. So what you had brought to the floor and then you yanked was a job killer.

At this point, I would like to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon, the ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, Mr. DeFazio.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to provide that immediately after the House adopts this rule, it will bring up H.R. 14, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. This is the House companion to the bipartisan Senate transportation bill that passed in the other body 74 22.

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


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, this House of Representatives is not working for the American people. At a time when jobs should be the most important priority of this Congress, we have a leadership that talks about everything but jobs. And when it comes to jobs, nothing could be more important than passing a transportation bill.

The Republicans brought a terrible bill to the floor--so terrible, they couldn't even force their own Members to vote for it. They had to pull it. And now we're in this period of delay, delay, delay; kick the can down the road, kick the can down the road.

And what makes this situation unique, I would say to my friend from Florida, as compared to previous years, is that we actually have a bipartisan bill that has passed one of the Chambers--a bipartisan bill in the Senate that passed overwhelmingly, 74 22--authored by Barbara Boxer and Jim Inhofe, two polar opposites of the political spectrum. They could come together.

They came together and put the American people first. They put jobs first. It wasn't about ideology. It wasn't about getting it perfect for either of them. And yet here we are, still fighting over the most ridiculous things and bringing the most inconsequential piece of legislation to the House floor when we should be focused on passing bills like this.

I'm told we need to do this because we're going on another recess. God forbid we stay here and actually work on something that will be meaningful for the American people. This bill is so important to our economy that, quite frankly, it's worth us staying here a few extra days and getting this thing done. Instead, we're going to kick the can down the road for 90 days. Next week nothing will be done. We'll come back, and then what? Then what will happen?

Essentially, what we're doing here is we're telling the American people that we're not putting them first. We're not putting jobs first. For the life of me, I can't understand why this Congress, this leadership, which claims to be open, won't even give us a vote. We can't even get a vote on the Senate bill. If you want to vote against the Senate 2-year extension and vote instead for your 90-day extension, fine. But let us have an opportunity to vote on something that will mean something to our communities, that will put people back to work. Why are you denying us this vote? I have yet to hear anybody say why we can't have a vote on this. We had no amendments debated on this House floor on the transportation bill. We ought to have this debated.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the previous question so a little democracy can happen here in the House of Representatives.


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