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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

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Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman for yielding time.

Since the founding of our Nation, there has been bipartisan agreement on the need for the Federal Government to play a strong role in interconnecting the States of our country. It was George Washington who said:

The only binding cement, and no otherwise to be effected but by opening such communications as will make it easier and cheaper for them to bring the product of their labor to our markets.

And that's relevant today, I'll address that in a moment.

The second quote which is relevant to the dispute today is:

We are either united people under one head for Federal purposes, or we are 13 independent sovereign entities eternally counteracting each other.

This is the need--and the gentleman knows this photo well. There are more than 70,000 bridges that are structurally deficient in this country, load limited; there are another 70,000 or so that are functionally obsolete or need substantial repair--150,000 bridges. Forty percent of the pavement on the National Highway System doesn't just need an overlay; it needs to be dug up; it needs underlayment and restructuring. And a $70 billion backlog on our transit systems.

We are actually killing people because we aren't investing in our infrastructure, let alone losing the opportunities for millions of jobs and economic competitiveness and more fuel efficiency.

People died right here in Washington, D.C., on the Metro because they're running cars that don't work anymore in the middle of trains, surrounded by cars that are supposed to work and help the ones that don't work.

People died here because this bridge collapsed.

We need to make these investments. With the Made In America requirements in the transportation portions of our government--which are the strongest and we hope to make even stronger in this bill, working with the Republican side of the aisle here--we could put millions to work, not just construction workers who certainly need the jobs, but also small businesses that supply, fabrication firms, manufacturing firms, steel manufacturers, and others across the board would be put to work rebuilding our infrastructure.

What's the problem?

Here's the problem: The second thing that George Washington talked about, saying that we're either united or we're going to be internally counteracting one another. There are, unfortunately, a substantial number of Republicans in their conference who have blocked movement on a bill because they don't believe, unlike George Washington, that the Federal Government has a role to play in coordinating a national transportation system. They want to devolve to the States. They want to go back to the good old days before Dwight David Eisenhower brought us into the modern era with the National Highway System. Here's the good old days. That's the brand-spanking-new Kansas turnpike--oops, it ends in Amos Schweizer's field. That's the Oklahoma State line.

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Mr. DeFAZIO. That's the Oklahoma State line.

Oklahoma had promised to build their section, but they couldn't because they had a funding dispute. And they didn't--until the Eisenhower bill passed and we had Federal aid to help Oklahoma build their section.

Now, we should go back to those good old days?

But there are some 85-odd members of the Republican Conference who are opposing a well-funded, longer term bill because this is their belief: These were better days for the United States of America.

Well, I'll tell you what. We could do a bill, and we could do a bill that does accommodate some of the concerns on the Republican side of the aisle with a serious conference over the next few days, with a will just to get it done, put America back to work, and rebuild our infrastructure. And you're going to have to have, unfortunately, because of your devolutionists, some Democratic votes to pass it.

Let's go back to the days of Denny Hastert: A majority of the majority need to vote for a bill, but it doesn't have to be passed only with Republican votes. We're not going to ever get a bill done if it's done on a partisan basis.

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