Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in favor of the THUD appropriations bill that is on the floor this week. I know all of us have listened to the speeches and the commentators, and we hear a lot of people around Washington say: Cut, cut, cut.
Well, I am for cutting our spending, and I think we need to tighten our belt, but we need to do it in a smart way, and we need to do things such as cut programs that do not work. We need to also make smart and targeted investments in our future. The question is, how do we do that?
Well, one of the ways we do that is by supporting this legislation today. By
working together and investing in our future, we can do great things for this country, and that is what the THUD bill is about.
Yesterday, the FAA announced seven airports in our State would receive a total of $4.8 million from the FAA for infrastructure upgrades. That is part of what the bill is about. Some of these are runway rehabilitations, some are new lighting systems, some may be drainage improvements. These not only promote safety--and certainly they make air travel safer in this country, and that is extremely important--but also they are a way to spur economic activity. It is a great way to reinvest Federal tax dollars into my State and into the other 49 States to create jobs. Let me give Arkansas as an example of this.
In Arkansas--and I know we are only about 1 percent of the population, so you can kind of do the math here--commercial and general aviation airports actually support 29,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion every year in economic activity.
Our airports are important, but it is only actually a piece of the puzzle. We need to remember that we have other great infrastructure we need to invest in, such as waterways and ports and highways, and rural communities--we have to make sure they are not left behind--such as rural housing, but also rural broadband.
So there are a lot of ways we can invest to make this country stronger. That is why I believe it is very important to support this THUD appropriations bill.
The bill passed in committee on a bipartisan vote 22 to 8. I was proud to vote for it. I was glad to see it get such a large bipartisan vote in the Senate subcommittee. I certainly hope my colleagues will do this again on the floor in a very bipartisan way.
This bill includes things such as the Federal-Aid Highway Program. This is a program that helps support interstate maintenance, bridge repairs, highway safety. After all, how many reports do we have to read that talk about the distressed infrastructure of our highways? So if we want to replace these bridges that are beyond their lifespan, this is the way to do it.
Every $1 billion in Federal highway and transit investment supports 13,000 American jobs.
This bill also includes popular programs that have been put to good use, such as TIGER. I could go through several of the TIGER grants my State has received, but one of those I am proud of is the TIGER grant for West Memphis, AR, to develop their port. It is an intermodal facility on the Mississippi River, right across from Memphis, which is crowded. West Memphis has all the same attributes that Memphis has, it just happens to be on the Arkansas side of the river, and that investment there is going to explode development and do great things up and down the Mississippi River.
The Airport Improvement Program is also part of this, the Contract Tower Program, the Community Development Block Grants. Every mayor, every elected official in the counties, the Governors--they all know how important the CDBG money is.
The other great thing about supporting this legislation is that it is one step in the right direction headed back to what we call regular order, trying to get things done in the Senate the way they ought to be done, with us working together, going through the committee process, coming to the floor with a bill, having amendments, having debate, sometimes fussing and fighting with one another, but nonetheless getting it done, and this is a great way to do that.
I believe moving our country forward with new jobs and a stronger economy is something we all should be able to agree on. All of us should be able to agree on this, maybe with a little difference here and there. But I hope a big number of Senators will support this legislation.
Lastly, let me say a few words about Chairwoman Mikulski and her ranking member Senator Shelby. Senator Mikulski has been amazing in her leadership of the Appropriations Committee. Everybody on the committee knows she is a breath of fresh air. She is so energetic and so knowledgeable and so good at what she does. We are so excited to have her there as chair of that committee. She is going to go down in history as one of the all-time greats. We are so proud she is pushing so hard to get these bills out of the committee and get them to the Senate floor and, hopefully, get them done on the Senate floor, so we can send them over to the House and get them conferenced.
Also, I have to say thank you to Senator Murray, who is the chair of this subcommittee, and also Senator Collins. I think Senator Collins is a great legislator. She knows how to get it done. She knows how all the bits and pieces work around here. She knows the process. She has great relations on both sides of the aisle. One thing I like about Susan Collins is a lot of times she will take on the hard items. She gets the hard work done. We need more Senators like her around here.
Certainly Senator Murray is incredible. She does so much good in the Senate and for the country and for her State.
With that, I encourage my colleagues to look at this bill. I know we are going to have some amendments, we are going to have some more debate. That is part of it. That is great. But let's get up-or-down votes and let's get this through the system.
With that, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.