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Public Statements

Infrastructure, Jobs, and Energy Independence

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SHUSTER. I thank my friend from Pennsylvania. Thank you for bringing us all together here on the floor this evening to talk about such an important issue and an important bipartisan piece of legislation.

H.R. 1861, the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act, is a bill whose time has come. We came together, Republicans and Democrats, to figure out ways to find the funds without raising taxes to invest in America's infrastructure. And this bill does that from investing in clean energy, rebuilding America's aging locks, dams, bridges and roads, creating jobs which, of course, all the American people are very focused on; and this bill will do just that.

It invests in cleaning up our environment and it, again, has one of the largest infrastructure investments in the history of the United States. With this bill we can do that and, again, it doesn't raise taxes. Opening up our offshore resources and bringing that energy to bear to make us less energy independent is absolutely critical.

In Pennsylvania we know firsthand with the Marcellus shale gas play that's there. It gives Pennsylvania a second chance, a second chance to revitalize our economy in Pennsylvania and once again become one of the driving States in the economy of the United States of America. So we know that firsthand, and it was Pennsylvania 150 years ago with its coal and its oil that was found there that made Pennsylvania so key in the growing and the building up of America.

I want to focus on the funding that would go towards transportation, and my colleague has a great visual aid up there talking about the needs, almost a trillion dollars we need to invest over the next 15, 20 years in our roads and bridges. Aviation, $87 billion; our dams are very much in need; sewer and water, we have about a $300 billion backlog across this country to rebuild the infrastructure, to get rid of sewage waste and make sure we have clean drinking water; $5 billion in inland waterways and locks and dams, which are so critical.

This country grew up, became a power because of our waterways and able to move goods at a very inexpensive rate. We need to revitalize those to continue to use those waterways that we have naturally. But it takes money to rebuild those locks and dams.

When you look around America, I think everybody has driven across a pothole or sees a bridge that's crumbling or many of us live with tremendous congestion and, in fact, the congestion is crippling America. It costs American commuters approximately $115 billion a year because of wasted time and fuel, and those numbers continue to rise; 4.8 billion hours per year Americans are stuck in traffic. We have to find out a way to reinvest in the infrastructure that's made our country.

When you talk about trade, how can you talk about trade and increasing trade if you can't figure out how to get those bulldozers, those Caterpillar tractors that are going to be shipped overseas. If you can't get them from Peoria, Illinois, to the ports of Philadelphia and the ports of Los Angeles to send them over there, they're going to sit in those yards.

We've got to figure out a way to get commerce, not only in foreign markets, but also it's coming into this country. It's the transportation system that's absolutely vital to that.

Today we currently are spending about $44 billion on our transportation system, highways, bridges, transit systems, when we actually should be spending at the Federal level about $62
billion. That number is going down because of our budget constraints. So we have got to find new revenues, and Congressman Murphy's H.R. 1861, this plan that we support in a bipartisan way, is going to do just that, get the funds to be able to invest in our infrastructure.

Our infrastructure, by the way, when you look back to the Constitution of the United States, a lot of people say, well, government shouldn't be investing in a lot of things. And I agree, there's a lot of things we do in Washington, DC we shouldn't be investing in; but transportation is not one of those.

From the time of our Founding Fathers in article I of the Constitution, it talks about the Federal Government regulating commerce with foreign nations and among the several States regulating and encouraging commerce to build post offices and post roads. The post roads of the 1800s are the highways and byways of today.

This Nation wouldn't be the great Nation it was if it weren't connected. And James Madison, the Father of the Constitution said: ``The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, be judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.'' Madison made that argument.

Also early on in our history, under the Jefferson administration, they authorized the building, 100 percent Federal dollars, of Route 40, which went from Baltimore into the Ohio territory. They authorized it under Jefferson, and the construction was completed under Madison. It opened up the territory, the Ohio Territory, to be able to produce commerce and prosperity to America. So early on in our Nation, the Founding Fathers knew the importance of our waterways, of building roads, of connecting this country.

And I on this side of the aisle can proudly say that it's been a Republican tradition in the United States Government and the United States Congress. Abraham Lincoln built the transcontinental railroad, not in the middle of a recession, but in the middle of the great Civil War.

He knew how important it was to connect America, to make sure that we move commerce in an efficient way and a safe way. From there, Teddy Roosevelt building the Panama Canal, which connected the two coasts together by water, extremely important for us to become an international power in commerce and in trade.

And then, of course, Eisenhower coming back from World War II, seeing what the Germans did with being able to move their troops around, had the idea that not only would it be good for America's security, but it would be good for America's commerce to connect this country. And that's exactly what he went about doing in the 1950s: we built the interstate highway system.

I have talked to many of my colleagues that have said the roads have been built, we don't need to spend on them. But they're crumbling; they need to be rebuilt. And one of the facts that I think we all ought to remember, it took us 65 years to go from 200 million to 300 million people, and we crossed that threshold in about 2005 or 2006. It's only going to take us 30-some years to go from 300 million to 400 million.

This Nation is going to continue to grow. We've got to be able to move people; we've got to be able to move our products throughout this country, to the ports to be able to trade globally. So this is something that has to become a national priority.

I believe that this bill, 1861, will help it to become a reality with the funding levels needed to invest in our transportation system. Again, you invest in transportation, you can see the return on investment, whether it's economic development or jobs created in the short term from building it or the long term and the commerce that it produces and the efficiencies that it allows our businesses to have.

Again, I thank the gentleman for bringing us together on a bipartisan basis. I would hope that more of our Members would sign up for this bill so we can push it to the finish line.

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