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Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Madam President, I come to the floor this evening to discuss the bipartisan transportation jobs bill that has been lingering since March 14. March 14 was pretty early in the construction season. If the House had moved as quickly as they should have, if the House were not, apparently, held hostage by some tea party members who think transportation should be a State issue and the Federal Government shouldn't be involved, there would have been so many more jobs created in the Presiding Officer's State of North Carolina and in Ohio and elsewhere. Those tea party members should think about President Eisenhower's legacy when they talk about transportation being a State and not a Federal issue.
The Senate passed this job-creating economic development bill more than 100 days ago, but this historically bipartisan highway bill remains stalled. We know investments in infrastructure mean jobs directly. We know investments in infrastructure mean economic development in the future. President Eisenhower and Congress established the Interstate Highway System not too many years after I was born, in the 1950s. A generation of Americans was set to work carving freeways, paving new roads, building bridges and tunnels across our great country that allowed people and products to travel across the 48 States.
In the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s, we had an infrastructure which was the envy of the world--an infrastructure the likes of which the world had never seen. Since then, we have not done quite so well. Our Nation used our postwar infrastructure boom to become an economic superpower, similar to how the GI bill helps millions of families who take advantage of it--soldiers, veterans, and families--yet at the same time creating prosperity for the whole country. Infrastructure building helps those men and women who are actually doing the construction, doing the work on the highways and bridges and water and sewer systems, but it also helps the companies and the workers who are manufacturing the steel and the concrete and the glass that goes into infrastructure, and it also helps the prosperity of society as a whole.
A truck leaving Toledo, OH, could be in Miami, FL, in less than a day. A family could drive from one corner of Ohio--from Conneaut, the county my wife was born in--to North Bend on the other end of the State in several hours instead of a whole day.
We know infrastructure investments are forward thinking, with payoffs that last for decades, yet also benefit our Nation--our small businesses, our workers--both today and for generations to come. So it is unacceptable that at a time of still too high unemployment--even though the unemployment rate in my State has dropped between 2 and 3 percent in the last 3 years, it is still too high--Washington politicians, for whatever reason, continue to block progress on this bill.
No one in this Congress should be proud of the condition of our roads or the safety of our bridges. No one in this Congress should be proud of the fact the world's newest airports and most modern train stations are not in the United States of America, as they were in the 1950s, 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s. They are being built overseas. No one in this Congress should be proud of creating new hurdles to progress, of obstruction, when the need is so great for us to create new jobs.
Historically, infrastructure has been a bipartisan issue. There is no so such thing as a Democratic or Republican bridge. The most recent extension is slated to expire Saturday at midnight. We can't afford to keep passing short-term extensions. We need to think about consequences for businesses that plan for the long term. Because Congress keeps passing inch-by-inch, month-by-month extensions, businesses can't plan, workers can't plan, State departments of transportation can't plan. It hurts the contractor, who is unsure whether she will have the funds to buy a new bulldozer; the crane operator, who is unsure of where his next job will be; and it hurts the small business owner who sells aggregate to the construction industry. We cannot afford to keep passing the buck with these short-term extensions and disrupting the ability of businesses to plan for the future.
This past weekend I visited El Meson Restaurante, a family-owned restaurant located near the I-75 modernization project in West Carrollton in Montgomery County, OH, in southwest Ohio, near Dayton. I spoke with the owner Bill Castro. I asked him: What happens if the bill expires and this project is delayed? He tells me that construction surrounding the restaurant has already cut into El Meson's profits. I have eaten at that restaurant three or four times. It has always been crowded. The food is good, the hospitality is great, and the owners are friendly and embracing. It is a great place. But because of this delay--which happens from time to time, I understand, and should--he has had to scale back his own salary, rather than lower his workers' wages and reduce the staff. He knows this is good for Montgomery County, for Dayton, and for the Miami Valley, but it is clear if this project gets delayed it will do serious damage to his restaurant and to the other small businesses in the area.
It is clear business owners in my State are doing their jobs. It is time the House of Representatives does its job and works with us to pass this highway bill, then get it back to the Senate and the House so we can vote on it. We know what is at stake: Jobs created by infrastructure investments are almost always good-paying middle-class jobs. Whether they are the construction jobs or the manufacturing jobs producing the products that go into the construction, these jobs typically provide workers with health care and retirement benefits and are the kinds of jobs our neighbors need to create a strong middle class. These jobs enable people to buy a home, to save for their children's college education, and plan for the future.
These investments not only create construction jobs, they improve our Nation's economic efficiency, obviously creating more prosperity. This bill is about rebuilding our infrastructure as much as it is about rebuilding our middle class. It is time for Congress to pass the highway bill. There is simply too much at stake not to.
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