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Mr. LANKFORD. I thank my colleague from Tennessee.
It is interesting for me to be able to hear the indignation and saying we've got to get this bill done. It's important that it gets resolved, and I would have to say I completely agree with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
This is a very important bill. Every person who gets in a vehicle, gets in a bus, gets in a truck, or has any piece or item in their home that's delivered by truck, train, whatever it may be, is affected by this. So it's very important.
But just a quick history lesson. When I arrived here in January of last year, we were on extension No. 6 because the previous highway bill expired in 2009. And when Democrats had the House and the Senate, and the Presidency, and they loaded their bill up with earmarks to get it passed, they did not get a bill passed.
So it's interesting to hear the conversation about, well, if Republicans in the House could get this resolved, then we'd get this settled, when, in reality, there are a lot of technical details that better be right that even when Democrats had the House, the Senate, and the Presidency for 2 years could not get this bill done, even with all the earmarks.
This is a different day. We're trying to work together between the House and the Senate. One body doesn't pass a bill and the other body just says, I'll tell you what, you passed it; we'll just go ahead and do that. If so, I would love for the Senate to take up many of the bills that we passed in the House and just have the Senate go ahead and pass those. But this has to be a bicameral agreement.
We're not going to do this with earmarks. That's a big difference. In the past, these bills had thousands upon thousands of earmarks, and we have determined no more, we're not going to do it that way. We have to live within the budget, and we have to be able to help a few things work a lot better than they have in the past.
Major highways right now take about 15 years in construction. We think that's way too long. The first 7 years of that is just in permitting and process and this repetitive process that we have with the Federal Government with this linear permitting. We just want to be able to stack those permits up, allow people to be able to take the first step on it, still have all the same environmental reviews, but do it in a way that's faster and is more streamlined. It saves time. It saves money. It actually builds those roads a lot faster than waiting all of this time.
I can tell you, many people in Oklahoma stare at the engineering work on both sides of the road and hear about new construction that's happening, but they hear about it and hear about it and hear about it and hear about it before the dirt ever gets turned. We want to try to get these road projects started and completed.
We want to allow road money to actually be used for roads. Now, I know that's a crazy idea, but we'd like highway money to be used for highways. We'd like to stay within budget, and we'd like the States to be able to have the flexibility to spend their money, remembering it's their money, not Washington, D.C.'s money.
That 18.4 cents that came out of that State is going back into that State in gas tax. We want the individuals that actually paid that gas tax to be able to help resolve how that's going to best be used.
If they have bridges that are coming down, let's fix bridges.
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