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Public Statements

Republican Transportation Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House in relationship to the transportation bill that we are currently debating in the House this week.

Transportation, as you know, has traditionally and historically been an idea where our two parties have been able to find common ground. Transportation has been an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats, alike, to work to rebuild America, to create jobs, strengthen our economy, move commerce, move people, improve the quality of life, including public safety--that is, up until now; and that is, until this bill.

With the legislation that we are debating today, Republicans put forth the most partisan transportation package in 50 years. It is not just partisan; it's bad for our Nation, destroying more than half a million American jobs. The transportation bill is supposed to be a job-creating bill. It always has been--until now.

Destroying more than half a million jobs, cutting highway investments in 45 States, bankrupting the highway trust fund with a $78 billion shortfall, and, just the strangest of all, among many shortsighted provisions in the bill, I want to make particular mention of what it does to public transportation. It eliminates all of the dedicated funding for public transportation, leaving millions of riders already faced with service cuts and fare increases out in the cold.

The legislation is so detrimental to our Nation that the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, a former Member of this body on the Republican side of the aisle, has said:

This is the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen, and it is also the most antisafety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our number one priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we've been about for the last 3 years. It's the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service.

In recommending that the President veto this legislation, the administration has said:

The legislation would make America's roads, rails, and transit systems less safe, reduce the transportation options available to America's traveling public, short-circuit local decision making, and turn back the clock on environmental and labor protections.

Mr. Speaker, this is so unfortunate because it's so out of character with the American way, the common sense of the American people about what we should be doing for them.

At the beginning of our country, Thomas Jefferson, when he was President, enlisted his Cabinet officers to build an infrastructure plan for America that involved transportation. In the 1800s, this plan, under Secretary Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, was put forth. It recognized that we had made the Louisiana Purchase, that there were Lewis and Clark expeditions going on, and that we had to build America--build roads and transportation out into these territories so that people would move there, commerce would develop, our country would be strong.

Following this, the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroad, the Cumberland Road, they were all built after the War of 1812--of course, the transcontinental railroad later than that--when our population was sparse and so was our national treasury.

In my own community of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay Bridge both were built 75 years ago in the midst of the Great Depression.

President Eisenhower in the mid- to late fifties, not a good economic time either, built and instituted the Interstate Highway System, unifying our country. It was a national security issue to unify our country. It was done at a time when our coffers were low on money, but it created jobs. It did what it was intended to do.

Now we are abdicating our responsibility. Again, 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson; 100 years later, Teddy Roosevelt, and his initiative for infrastructure centered around our national park system and how we make that part of our national patrimony, and some of that falls under the Transportation Subcommittee of the Congress of the United States. Now, here we are, 100 years later, putting forth a bill that loses jobs, diminishes public safety. It's a missed opportunity, and it's no wonder our Republican colleagues are having so much trouble building support for it in their own caucus.

I just wanted to take a moment to share my views with our colleagues about how wrong this is for the future and how out of keeping it is with our great past, which has seen the strength of our country grow because of our investments in our infrastructure and our bringing people together through transportation.

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