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Public Statements

Highway Trust Fund

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I came to the Senate floor in April to warn my colleagues of a looming crisis in the highway trust fund. I told them if Congress didn't act and the fund reached critically low levels, it would cause construction shutdowns in communities across the country. It would cost jobs and threaten our fragile economic recovery. It would hurt families who depend on safe and efficient roads and bridges.

I had hoped that we could address this issue sooner. I had hoped those of us in Congress who understand the importance of strong infrastructure investments could have come together, not just to avoid a crisis but for a long-term solution. We weren't able to do that.

But today, after 4 months of warning of this looming crisis, I am pleased to come to the floor as we work to do what should be easy but too often isn't in the Senate--to avoid a completely unnecessary and completely damaging crisis. This is a step in the right direction. As many of us here know very well, it is a step that Congress has not taken each time a crisis approached.

For far too many years, Congress has been lurching from crisis to crisis, from debt limit scares to fiscal cliffs. That dysfunction hit a peak last October with a government shutdown over a misguided attempt to block the Affordable Care Act from covering millions of families and with another Federal default scare. The lurching from crisis to crisis with constant dysfunction and uncertainty hurt workers and our families, and it shook the confidence of people across the country who expect their elected officials to work together to get things done.

But when the government shutdown finally ended last year, I sat down with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in a budget conference. We worked together, we compromised, and we reached a 2-year budget deal that prevented another government shutdown and rolled back devastating cuts from sequestration.

That bipartisan budget deal moved us away from these constant crises and showed the American people that we can do our jobs when we are willing to work together. I believe it showed my Republican colleagues that putting the American people through these constant artificial crises is not only bad for the country overall, it is not good for Republicans either.

Since that bipartisan budget deal, we have been able to build on that bipartisan momentum in some very important ways. I was proud to work with the junior Senator from Georgia and a number of Democrats and Republicans on a bipartisan bill to invest in workforce training.

Our legislation passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, and this week it will officially become law. That kind of bipartisan work to help our workers and the economy wouldn't be possible if we were still in a constant crisis mode.

That is why I have been so hopeful we could avoid lurching toward yet another needless crisis--this time in our highway trust fund. The consequences of Congress failing to shore up the highway trust fund are clear. In fact, many of our States have already been bracing for a worst-case scenario. Arkansas, for example, has already put the brakes on 15 highway projects that would have widened their highways and repaired their bridges.

In Colorado, State officials are planning a project to ease congestion to give some much-needed relief to drivers between Denver and Fort Collins, but a lapse in our Federal funding could have put that project on hold.

Those are not isolated cases. Across the country more than 100,000 projects would have been at risk next year and 700,000 jobs would have been on the line if Congress failed to replenish the highway trust fund according to the Department of Transportation.

I am pleased Congress is finally coming together and working to avoid a construction shutdown this summer. Republicans in the House have pushed aside the tea party branch and passed a bill to avoid a construction shutdown this summer, with no ransom demands, no programmatic spending cuts, and no tea party policy riders.

I do support the bipartisan Senate proposal from the Finance Committee, which includes provisions to improve compliance with tax laws.

My colleague, the junior Senator from California, is right. We need pressure on Republicans to come back before the end of this Congress to work with us toward a long-term solution, but I am very pleased we are working together to get this done and avoid this unnecessary crisis that would have put jobs and our economy at risk.

This bill will be a step in the right direction, but then we need to take the next step. We need to keep this bipartisanship going, and we need to work together to find a long-term solution to the highway trust fund's revenue shortfall. That is the only way we can truly put an end to constant crises and short-term patches, and it is the only way we can give our States and businesses the certainty they need and deserve to plan projects and invest in their economies.

Once again, I am pleased we are moving toward avoiding a completely unnecessary construction shutdown, and I am pleased that the House Republicans seem to understand that it is better for them and our country to push the tea party aside and work with us--not to push us into another crisis.

I am hopeful we can build on this bipartisan effort and keep working together to create jobs, economic growth, and a fair shot and true opportunity for families across our country.

I yield the floor.


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