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Conference Report on H.R. 4348, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, it has indeed been a very bumpy road to get to this point where we could pass a transportation bill.

First, I have to thank my colleagues. I want to particularly thank the Speaker of the House of Representatives who stuck by me, who insisted that we pass this legislation that we worked on together in the best interest of the people of the United States, particularly in a time when people have lost their jobs, particularly at a time where the construction industry is at its lowest point in probably our history, and particularly at a time when it's important for Congress to act, not just to talk about problems that we have, but to get things done in the best interest of the people of the United States.

So I want to thank first the Speaker. I want to thank my colleagues who participated. I want to thank the staff who have been up almost nonstop for 2 weeks day and night trying to help wrap this up.

I'm not particularly pleased with some of the twists and turns. Let me say, first of all, my predecessor Mr. Oberstar, I regret that he was not able to achieve what we've achieved. He was undermined, unfortunately, by this administration to pass a bill. I tried to help him to pass a bill, not for partisan reasons or political reasons, but, again, for the people that we represent and trying to get this country, the economy moving forward. They had to pass six extensions. I was forced to pass three. But we're here today because so many people worked so hard.

One of the funniest things that happened to me during the passage of this bill--and you know that people have been kind of tough on me during this process--is I came to the floor one morning after a particularly tough time, and a staffer looked at me and he said, Mr. Mica, your shirt is awfully clean. He looked at my shirt, opened my coat, and he said, Your shirt is awfully clean.

I said, What do you mean?

He said, For someone that's been thrown under the bus so many times, you don't have many tire tracks on you.

One of the light moments in this process.

But you know what you have to do is, when they throw you under the bus, you get up, you right yourself, you dust yourself off, and then you gain even more determination to win and get the job done. And that's what we're doing today.

Today we're passing a bill, again, that the other side couldn't pass when they had complete control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. We're passing this today, ironically, in the week that they passed the first transportation bill in Congress, and it was signed into law back in June of 1956.

This isn't the bill that exactly I would like, but this is a bill that, first of all, has the most historic reforms in the Federal participation in transportation programs in its history, since its adoption back in 1956. Those reforms are included, and there is a dramatic change in consolidation of some of the programs that mushroomed. Government mushrooms. Nobody does anything about reining in the size of government. This bill does something about that.

This bill takes the plea that we've heard from Beckley, West Virginia, to the west coast, from sea to shining sea in an unprecedented number of hearings across the country. And people said the whole paperwork process, red tape of Federal Government involved in transportation projects has to be changed. And we change it here for the first time historically, dramatically reducing the time that it takes to permit and go forward with a project, dramatically reducing the cost, dramatically reducing the mandates, increasing the flexibility for local government. So we have a streamlining process, unprecedented.

Now, this wasn't easy to do because my previous chairmen--and one of them that, at least, is here--they had a little thing called earmarks. In fact, the last bill had 6,300 earmarks. And you see, my hands are behind my back. I don't have them tied, but I didn't have the ability to pass out earmarks and the other little goodies in this bill. Instead, we had to focus on policy. And this is good policy. This is good policy for transportation safety. This is good policy for, again, reforms, and it's good policy for moving forward projects across the country and putting people to work.

``Shovel-ready'' will no longer be a joke. The administration, when they tried the stimulus dollars to throw that money out there, 35 percent was left in the Federal Treasury 2 1/2 years after we passed the bill because ``shovel-ready'' even made the President and others cringe at the thought of how Federal red tape and paperwork stops projects in their progress.

So those are some of the reforms.

I'm grateful, again, for all that helped us move in a positive bipartisan direction.

I want to compliment Senator Boxer. She and I are probably like oil and water when it comes to political philosophy, but we joined together, like everyone should do, to get the people's work done and to get people working in the United States and pass this long overdue legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. MICA. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam Speaker, it is good to be at this point in the completion of a long overdue, major transportation reform bill for the Congress and for the American people.

First, I will take a moment and thank our staff:

Jim Tymon, who is next to me here, is the tireless staff director of the Highway Subcommittee. He is day and night helping to sort things out, looking out for the people and making certain this bill has the very best provisions; Dan Veoni; Shant Boyajian; Geoff Strobeck; Joyce Rose; Fred Miller; Steve Martinko; Justin Harclerode, who is my press secretary, or assistant. He has always had to explain what I've said or at least clarify; Jason Rosa; my sidekick, Clint Hines, who has followed me on the floor with so many member requests; Jennifer Hall, our outstanding legal counsel; Amy Smith has some real firepower for good policy for the country and for transportation for the Nation; and then our untiring leader of the committee, Jim Coon, our staff director, who day and night neglected his beautiful family for the benefit of the people of this country;

Then we even retired Jimmy Miller in the process, who headed this up for many, many years in the service to our Nation and the committee. He retired in the process, hopefully not as a result of all the hard work. He is a great American;

Then there is Stephanie Kopelousos, who was on our team for a while. She is the former Secretary of Transportation from Florida, and she organized the Secretaries around the United States--I think the forward-thinking ones--to help us go through the laws and all the mess that we've created and redline it and get rid of the bureaucracy, the duplication, the costly red tape.

So our hats are off to all of them and to so many more and to all of our distinguished colleagues who were conferees who worked on this.

We actually engaged members in discussion, which is a new approach to a conference committee. We did that, but I'm sorry the other side was thrown under the bus, some by the administration, and particularly Mr. Oberstar, for whom I feel so bad because he waited so long and could never see this day. Then, in the process, we did not draft the legislation; Ms. Boxer's staff did. So, again, if there was anyone who felt that he didn't participate enough, I tried not to be responsible for that approach in having started, as I said, the first hearing in Beckley, West Virginia, Mr. Rahall's hometown, going all the way to the west coast to have an unprecedented, historic bipartisan and bicameral hearing in California with Barbara Boxer, who chaired the conference committee.

So this is where we are. Tomorrow would actually close down thousands of transportation projects. Departments of Transportation around the country were on the verge of actually giving sort of IOUs or of giving notification to close down, and probably millions would have been put out of work if we hadn't acted. So this is very important for the American people, particularly at this time when we're on the cusp of not knowing which way the economy is going to go, but it has to go forward.

There are some things in here that are also great: the RESTORE Act; student loans from which our students will benefit; national flood insurance from which people in my States and others will see reductions; transportation safety was paramount; there was a consolidation of some of the programs, streamlining, cutting red tape. We were able to do more with less and move transportation forward for the Nation.

Again, I thank everyone for their cooperation. I am pleased that we've reached this point. It doesn't have everything, and a lot of people said it couldn't be done. As my son often says--and I'll close with his remarks, and he likes the Cable Guy--``Dad, git-r-done.''

Son, we got-r-done today.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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