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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4348, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. MICA. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the motion to instruct and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I want to take a little bit of time to explain to you and my colleagues and others who may be listening to this debate about what's happening now. The other side of the aisle has just offered a motion to instruct, and we're going to conference on an important piece of legislation. That's the transportation bill that sets the transportation policy for the United States of America.

For all of our transportation projects, those projects that would be eligible, we identify the terms of participation for States and local governments and everyone who is going to receive Federal funds for transportation projects. So all of that is very important.

It is important that we put people to work. When I go back home, I talk to people who lost their house, lost their job, and they want an opportunity to work. And you heard that, in fact, there have been nine amendments since the bill expired, and six of those extensions were passed under the Democrats. I've had to do three.
They had complete control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the White House, and still had to pass six extensions. Then I learned from our staff that they did not pass a single free-standing extension.

Before we left for Easter, I passed a freestanding extension to get us so that we wouldn't close down jobs, that we wouldn't stop contracts, that we wouldn't stop people working. Now they're asking us to take the Senate carte blanche, a proposal which was adopted by the Senate--not a total vote, but it was a bipartisan vote--and just adopt it in their motion to instruct.

Now, Madam Speaker, I just got through explaining the Constitution to a wonderful group of young people from the Stetson Baptist Christian School in DeLand, Florida, on the steps just a few steps from here--right out that door and down those steps--and they stood there. I explained to them that the Founding Fathers created two Houses. The first body that they created, most importantly, the Congress of the United States, a legislative branch with a House and, yes, young people and teachers and chaperones that were listening, and I said also with the Senate.

They did that because they wanted all of those opinions to come together and they wanted us to work, again, in a bipartisan fashion to come up with the best possible solution. Yes, they'd operated with Articles of Confederation with a unicameral government, but last time I checked down the hall, I think if we open those doors and look down there, there is the United States Senate, and this is the people's House of Representatives.

I also explained to the students, this is the only body in which the Members actually have to be elected. Everybody else can be appointed. The Senators can be appointed. The President, actually you could replace him by appointment, the Vice President. But the only Federal representative that they have is the House of Representatives.

But what they want to do is cast the participation of the House of Representatives aside and just adopt what the Senate has brought forward. I tell you that the House has worked hard.

Now, I didn't have the benefit of 6,300 earmarks, which my predecessor had, to pass a bill, so it's taken me a little bit longer, and a few days ago we did pass a bill. It wasn't a bill that we passed out of committee, H.R. 7, with all the Republican votes but one, and we tried to bring to the House. It wasn't the vote that we heard in committee for some 18 hours, most of the time consumed not with Republican amendments but with Democrat amendments, over a hundred Democrat amendments, and I said we're going to sit there as long as it takes and give everyone an opportunity to participate in this free and open process, which we are doing here. Today they propose closing down that free and open process. Let's just adopt what the Senate tossed over to us.

I say ``no,'' and I say ``no'' for a whole host of reasons. The Senate proposal is a proposal that will bankrupt the trust fund. The Senate proposal is a path to just building paths, to resurfacing, to short-term jobs, not answering the call of the people who sent us here to make certain that their transportation money, when they go fill up their gas tank, pay for 1 gallon of gas, 18.4 cents comes to Washington in the trust fund, and we spend it. That's what this sets the policy for, what's eligible for receiving those Federal dollars.

But we'll just forget there's a House of Representatives and cast that body aside. I think not.

I think even an eighth-grader from one of my schools at home can figure this out, Madam Speaker, and I just can't agree with this motion to recommit.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. MICA. Madam Speaker, at this time I have no further requests for time, and I yield myself the balance of my time.

I started out talking about how it's important for the legislative process to properly be fulfilled under the terms of the Constitution and separation of responsibilities in the legislative body. This motion, of course, would close all of that down. We'd accept what the Senate has done without all of the work many Members have put into it. And I didn't go to Webster Springs, but I did go to Beckley, West Virginia, where we held the first meeting to allow the other side of the aisle to present at the very first of these deliberations their viewpoint and their recommendations for trying to pass a long-term transportation bill.

We took many of those--as you heard, 60 percent of the recommendations form the other side. We took 100 amendments, considered them, and passed 20 during 18 hours of marking up and considering the bill. So we've tried to make this a bipartisan process and a full process that everyone gets to participate in. But now they're here telling us that we don't want the House to participate any further, and just take the Senate bill and go along.

Now they, of course, passed six extensions, short term, keeping things in turmoil during--I think we calculated about 14 months. I've had to do three in about the same period of time. The difference is, I didn't have 6,300 earmarks, I didn't control the other body or that house downtown, what do they call it? The White House. But they controlled them all, all the branches, and they couldn't git 'er done.

So, the Senate bill does not set a threshold on some of these environmental approvals that tie us up. And no one wants to step over any good environmental provisions. What we want to do is shorten a little bit the time that these things go under consideration. They go on and on. You heard Mr. Ribble talk: 15 years to approve some of the projects in his district, 7 years on average for simple processing if the Federal Government gets involved. And we keep repeating the same thing. You heard the speaker say it's like Groundhog Day around here, and we've got to stop the Groundhog Day, and we could do that by having the House provisions adopted.

There are a whole host of things wrong with the Senate bill, and I won't get into them. And I know it's been a bumpy road to get here. I've told folks that when I became chairman--and I think the ranking member, when he became ranking member, neither of us was handed an operating manual. So this has been a bumpy road to get here, and it is a difficult process, but we tried to include everyone in that process and come up with the best suggestions and recommendations.

Mr. Ribble's amendment, which is to streamline provisions of H.R. 7, is excellent. Well, we'll get more for less, and we can do it responsibly. Mr. Boustany from Louisiana's amendment getting the Highway Maintenance Trust Fund to get funds that are collected for improvement of the ports--actually they improve our ports that are so important to infrastructure. So there are many good provisions in our legislation. It's not what I would have exactly crafted or passed in the very beginning or brought out here, but it is a vehicle so that everybody can have consideration who has participated in this process.

So I submit to you, although it's been a bumpy road with some twists and turns--we didn't expect that the Senate bill is a path to fewer jobs; it's a path to fewer projects actually getting done. It's a path to build only paths, if you want to look at it that way. Unfortunately, it's also a path to a dead end for transportation.

So, I submit, Madam Speaker, that we take a different road, that we take a road to where we'll have more jobs. We could do more with less, and we can, I think, do a lot more for the American people in a very difficult time in our history in moving this great country forward and building our infrastructure.

With that, I'll yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. MICA. When I took over as ranking member and we had sort of a rank way in which earmarks were done, I cleaned up the process. I think earmarks, there can be bad legislative earmarks and bad administrative earmarks. When they're done behind closed doors, they're not properly vetted, they're not transparent, and they haven't had the sunshine, the antiseptic sunshine to let people know what's going on and they're not a worthwhile project that has true support, they shouldn't be considered, whether by the administration or legislatively. I think that we have a moratorium now, and I'd like to see a different way to present those requests. I think fundamentally under Article I of the Constitution, I think it's section 2, we should, as the House of Representatives, and we do earmark, even if we just put one line in that says that we'll turn all this money and responsibility over to the administration--that is an earmark. But we can do, and we should do better.

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