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Flood Insurance and Modernization Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, we have six Senators, including the occupant of the chair, the Senator from New York, on the floor today in the majority time to discuss the jammed bipartisan Senate highway bill.

I heard my colleague from Georgia talk about how we are doing nothing and America is languishing. One of the things we are doing nothing on is passing a highway bill that should not be complicated. But it is jammed up by the House Republicans and, as a result, people in Rhode Island and elsewhere are suffering. I will be here throughout our majority period. I think the Senator from Minnesota and the Senator from New Hampshire were here first, so I yield to them.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, I thank the Senators on our side who have come here today during the majority time block to express their support for moving forward on the highway transportation bill.

Not all of them have had the chance to speak because time was short, but I wish to have the Record reflect that in addition to Senators KLOBUCHAR, SHAHEEN, BEGICH, CARDIN, and FRANKEN, who did speak, and myself of course, Senator Gillibrand is also here but presiding. Senator Stabenow was here but could not wait. Senator Mark Udall is here. Senator Conrad was here. We are all here because we are very concerned about what is going on with the highway bill.

We had a March 31 deadline in order to get things done by the summer construction season that we have heard so much about. We made the deadline. Not only did we make the deadline, we made the deadline with a bipartisan bill, one that was unanimous among both parties in the Environment and Public Works Committee and we brought it to the floor and we got it passed, 75 or more Senators supporting it. The House did not do its job. It did not have a bill. It could not pass a highway bill.

For folks who have been around here longer than I have, the failure to pass the highway bill is telling. This is not like getting an A on a chemistry test. This is like showing up for class, and they failed at that very simple task. So they asked for an extension. We probably should not have given it. We probably should have forced the vote then. But we did. We gave them an extension on the theory that, in good faith, they would come through. We knew the extension would cost jobs. The extension has cost jobs. Out of over 90 projects slated for this construction season in Rhode Island, about 40 are going to fall off because of the delay. Those are real jobs in Rhode Island, a State that needs them, and that is true across the rest of the country. Wherever winter falls, this predicament exists. So that is why so many of my colleagues were here.

Now we are closing in on the end of the extension we gave them. It will end June 30. I am here to urge that we give no further extensions. It is either govern or get out of the way to the House of Representatives. If they can't pass a highway bill of their own, let the Senate bill come up for a vote. It is bipartisan. It is supported by manufacturers. It is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is supported by road builders. It is supported by environmentalists. It is supported by labor. It is a good bill. It had a great process, wide open, on the Senate floor. There is no excuse for not taking up that bill. I agree with Senator Begich. If that bill comes up, Democrats and Republicans together will give it a massive majority in the House, and people will be put to work.

One place where I think we all ought to be able to agree on both sides of the aisle is that Federal spending is actually helpful and does create jobs in building our roads and bridges. We don't expect Americans to repair the road in front of their house. We don't expect Americans to go and build bridges for themselves. It is a government job to build roads and bridges. The jam-up Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have created on this is costing probably hundreds of thousands of jobs right now in this country. Why they are doing it, their motive, that is not for me to say. But the practical effect is that jobs are being lost by unnecessary delay, created by Republicans in the House, which they could get rid of by simply calling up the bipartisan Senate bill and giving a free vote on it, letting it pass, and putting Americans to work.

I yield the floor. I thank the distinguished Senator from Utah for being
patient as I went over my time a little bit.

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