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Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, we have had 2 weeks of a lot of discussion. We haven't had a chance to vote on amendments mostly because there are some Members who have been objecting to moving forward to consideration of amendments. I think that is regrettable.

We are now to the point where we are going to have a vote on cloture. It is absolutely necessary. The alternative to this would be an extension. Probably 20, 30 different times Members have come in and said we should have an extension. If we have an extension, we will not have streamlining provisions, and we cannot move on with IPAM. We cannot immediately start constructing these roads and bridges.

It doesn't make any sense to stall and stall and wait around and do nothing. We want to get this bill on the road. That is what we are going to do, and we are going to do it today.

I regret a lot of people who wanted to have amendments considered during the last 2 weeks have not been able to do so. I regret that some people just blocked them from having that opportunity.

There have been a lot of objections that have come up on this bill. Members keep talking about the 40-percent increase-40-percent increase. That is 40 percent over 6 years. If you said 6.2 percent for the infrastructure of America that is lagging so far behind, no one could complain about that. They are making it appear this is 40 percent in one year. It is not.

They are talking about the amount of money in this bill. We have to understand we have two things we are looking at. One is capital outlay and one is obligation limitation. This is a perfectly reasonable bill. We have done something that has not been done before. It was not done in 1991, and it was not done in 1998. We have stayed with the formula. The alternative is to stay with the formula, like we failed in TEA-21 and failed in ISTEA, and we will have to put in a minimum guarantee where all you do is pacify some 60 voters by giving them whatever they want in the percentage of the overall, and as to the rest, who cares; we have our 60 votes and we run.

That is not the way we did it this time. For that we have been punished. We have had people assail this bill when this is the first time it has been done right.

The formulas took into consideration many factors. I know others want to be heard. I don't want to use a lot of time. At an appropriate time, I am going to go over what went into these formulas. Fast-growing States, slow-growing States, donor States, donee States-all these factors were considered, and then we came up with a formula.

Sure, I heard the two Senators from Arizona were complaining they didn't think their State had enough and, at the same time, they were complaining we were spending too much on the bill. When we look at the formula, their State still gets $40 million more than my State of Oklahoma over 6 years. Any State can complain about how the formula comes out. The bottom line is every State gets a minimum of a 10-percent increase. The average is 35.6 percent.

It is a good bill. We are going to get cloture. We are going to move ahead. If there are germane amendments everyone agrees should be considered, we will consider them. I look forward to doing that. Cloture is important. We are going to get cloture and bring this step to a halt.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I know we have a couple of minutes remaining. This morning we have covered some of the arguments that have been made over the last 2 weeks. There are some aspects that have not been talked about. I do think we should compliment the Finance Committee. They have taken a lot of heat. They have taken a lot of criticism-unjustly, I might add. We made a request of them when we came up with this bill, at the figures we had in both capital outlay and obligation limitation. We asked Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley if they could come up with the amount of money to do this so it will comply with what the President outlined when he said he did not want a tax increase, he did not want to go into deficit or have it come out of the general fund, and they have done that. They have been criticized on this floor.

I do know this, that the highway trust fund has been raided for years, and we are now in a position where we can correct and rectify that problem. I think this is one of the good things that has come out of this bill, and I applaud the Finance Committee for the work they have done

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