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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, today we bring up the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012. This is the second part of an extension that we passed previously. Just before the Congress recessed and went into the Easter work period and holiday, the House did pass a 90-day extension, and that extension expires on June 30, 2012. The extension before us today is an additional 90-day extension. The purpose of this extension is so that we can hopefully bring about resolution and conference legislation to complete our transportation bill.

Now, the previous extension was the ninth extension, and the Democrats--the other side of the aisle--were forced to pass a sixth extension, so I'm hoping that this will be our last extension and that it will also provide us a vehicle to conclude this important work that so many jobs across this country are relying on. The building of our Nation's infrastructure is tied to this work and to the completion of this important task.

This is a fairly clean extension. There are a couple of provisions in here, I think, that will provide increased energy for the country; and if anyone has not felt the pain at the pump, all they need to do is go to a local gas station. I saw today that the lowest-cost gas in a local station not a couple blocks from here was $4.45 a gallon. This particularly hurts the working men and women of America and those on fixed or limited incomes. I think the provision that we have here is an excellent provision, and I'll talk a little bit more about this.

This again is a vehicle that can deliver us to the completion of the important work. This extension has levels of funding that are consistent with the transportation appropriations bill which was signed by the President in November. Then we'll consider, I believe, three amendments that have been made in order by the Rules Committee. Let me talk about them again very briefly.

First, the Keystone pipeline provision. This administration is still meandering not only on transportation legislation but also on energy legislation, and it has not found its way, unfortunately, for the American people.

But this bill can provide us reliable sources of energy. We're talking about a pipeline and a source from a good ally and neighbor in the North American continent. We're not talking about relying on Venezuela, the Middle East, or Nigeria, where we get a lot of our supplies for energy today. So it can provide again some stability, some reduction in price for the consumer, particularly when they're so hard hit at this time. We will have more to talk about with it.

In regard to the Keystone pipeline, this pipeline has been studied to death. This administration, for over 3 years, has delayed approval. The President has approved a small part in one section of the country--or at least he says he would. You can't build a pipeline that can actually deliver energy at a lower cost in reliable fuel in a piecemeal fashion. The Keystone pipeline has been studied for about 3 1/2 years now, while they built the entire Alaska pipeline in that period of time. So the time for studying, for delay, and for not acting on reducing energy costs and increasing supply has ended.

Additionally, we have a couple of other provisions in here which I'm supportive of. One is the RESTORE Act, which creates the Gulf Restoration Trust Fund, and that provides for a fair and equitable manner for division of the penalties collected by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I think that that is a provision that can also help a lot of our Gulf States that were hard hit and impacted by that disaster.

Finally, I think another amendment that I think is very laudatory is one by Mr. Ribble that has been made in order, and that carries, from H.R. 7, a lot of the streamlining provisions that we think are so important to getting projects done.

President Obama promised us infrastructure when they sold a $787 billion so-called stimulus package. Mr. Oberstar and I came back here. At the time, they were looking at a $250 to $300 billion stimulus bill, of which 50 percent would be, in fact, infrastructure. As it turned out, it was 6 or 7 percent. That's some $63 billion.

Last October, there was still 35 percent of the $63 billion for infrastructure stuck in the Treasury in Washington, D.C., 2 1/2 years after we passed the stimulus. So you can pass all the transportation bills you want, and if you can't deliver the project and cut the red tape and paperwork that Washington thrives on, then you can't get anything done. That provision is so important in moving transportation legislation forward that can make a difference in getting projects done.

In the hearings that we did across the country, starting in Mr. Rahall's district--the Democrat leader of the committee--in Beckley, West Virginia, we heard at every single hearing all the way to the west coast when we did a bipartisan, unprecedented bicameral with Senator Boxer hearing on that coast, every single hearing, almost without question, most of the witnesses all said that we needed to speed up the projects.

``Shovel ready'' has become a national joke, and we've got to end that sad joke that doesn't allow us to go forward. I think the Ribble amendment will do that.

With that, I think we have a vehicle that we can get to conference and work in a bipartisan and bicameral manner to get the job done.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 1/2 minutes.

Let me just say I heard repeated here some things about what the Secretary said, and he did not have favorable comments about H.R. 7. So we've tried to bring something forward that would bring us to passing a bill and get people to work and get this resolved. And then today the Secretary said that the Congress would not pass a multiyear bill, instead of saying he'd work with us and be a leader to do that.

Then the Secretary went on to say, look what they've loaded it up with--speaking about this bill today--Keystone, coal ash, none of it has anything to do with transportation.

Well, first of all, I guess it's difficult for the Secretary to understand that energy costs and the pain at the pump are killing the consumer and impacting dramatically the American people. Keystone does have something to do with that. I guess if you have a chauffeur pick you up in the morning and you're not pumping the gas yourself and taking the money out of your pocket, you wouldn't understand the relevance of Keystone.

And then coal ash, which was just referred to here by the gentleman, it makes our surface more durable and we save money----


Mr. MICA. Coal ash, to continue, although being interrupted, makes the surface more durable. It's important that we get value when we're putting money into roads and pavement. So it's a very important provision that saves costs and gets us more for our money.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute at this time.

I know there's a lot of disappointment on the other side of the aisle because this extension and this ability to get the bill done contains no earmarks, no tax increases, and no programs of bigger government, so I know they're disappointed in that regard.

The other thing, too, that folks should remember is we've done everything we can in a bipartisan way to move this process forward. I remember working with Mr. Oberstar, the former chairman, when the current Secretary and the President came in and said they weren't going to do a 6-year bill when they had all the votes, huge majorities, and they could have put people to work and gotten this done. Instead, they gave us six extensions. So here we are trying to get the job done.

As the Cable Guy says, and my son reminds me, Dad, we're gonna git-r-done. And we're going to get her done one way or the other.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. Okay. Then I would tell the gentleman that I plan to respond in not taking his time, but in taking my time to the request from the distinguished ranking member from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall), and I will have an answer in response to his specific question dealing with whether or not I would sign the letter asking for an expeditious approval and consideration of appointment of conferees and going to conference in an expedited manner.


Mr. MICA. In answering with bated breath, I yield myself the balance of my time.

First of all, let me say on a serious basis that I've tried to have the best working relationship possible with Mr. Rahall, the Democrat leader of the Transportation Committee. He and I were respectively chosen to lead the committee, and I've tried to do my best in the last year plus several months to work with him in meeting our responsibilities.

We have done some important things. We passed a 5-year stalled FAA bill, and we did it without tax increases, without earmarks, and with a good plan for the future that will put people to work in an area, the aviation industry, that accounts for 10 percent of our economic activity in the country.

Let me say in regard to the former chair of, I believe, the Highway Subcommittee, Mr. DeFazio, that he was the ranking member on 9/11 when the good Lord put us both with the responsibility of trying to get the Nation's aviation system going after the horrendous attack by terrorists on our country and on the aviation system, and we did that together.

I came to this position after 18 years, after my predecessor, Mr. Oberstar, who I enjoyed so much working with, who was the distinguished leader from the other side. I learned quite a bit from Mr. Oberstar and others, from Mr. Shuster who came before me. There was a whole host of great leaders in the committee--Mr. Mineta, my first chair. I tried to learn from all of them and not make mistakes but to do the best thing for the committee, not for my self-interests or my party's interests, but in the interest of the American people, because that's what we're sent here for is to help the American people.

We had a crisis after 9/11. We came together. We have a crisis now. We have millions of Americans who don't have jobs, who don't have work. I supported the bill. I think Mr. Oberstar waited 32 years to become chairman. I was elected after 18 years by my colleagues. He had his bill pretty much together. I didn't have a bill.

I first went to Mr. Rahall's district, who is the ranking member, and held the first hearing on this legislation in Beckley, West Virginia, which I'd never been to, and I wouldn't mind going back. Everybody there was nice to me and committed then. We went across the country and did a record number of hearings--as I said, bipartisan, bicameral with Mrs. Boxer, who I hope to complete this legislation with and with other leaders and workers, because here you can't do it yourself. You really can't. You might think you can, but you can't.

So I have taken everybody's good ideas, and please don't say I wasn't bipartisan. We took every amendment, 100 Democrat amendments. I don't know anyone who has done that. We sat there until 3 o'clock in the morning--it was an 18-hour markup--and we passed 20-some of their amendments. Shoot, this is difficult. I don't have earmarks like the previous chairman had. The last bill had 6,300 earmarks. Yes, you can get the bill done quickly, but even then it took them 2 years. I've been here for--what?--14 months leading the committee, and today, we will take this to conference.

To answer your question, not only will I sign the letter; I will draft the letter asking to be expeditious in going to conference and in the appointment of conferees. In addition, I'll ask our chair, Mr. Duncan, to sign that letter--I hope you will join me, and I thank you for offering that--so we can get the people's work done.

I look back and I see the missed opportunities, one when Mr. LaHood came in to Mr. Oberstar and me and turned down a 6-year bill that we had planned. I didn't like everything Mr. Oberstar proposed. In fact, I probably would have had to have held my nose and voted for it; but I told him, in the interest of the country and the American people, we needed to move forward, and I was supportive of getting the bill to conference so we could work out the details. I wasn't afforded all that opportunity in this process, and I'm saddened a bit about that because I have tried to work in good faith.

Now the American people are calling on us to stop the bickering, to stop the baloney, to get back to work. The American people are hurting.

Then again, there is the pain at the pump. I've seen people, when I've been home, taking out a few dollars at a time in trying to pay that gas bill, and sometimes I've seen people go out and buy $5 worth of gas. It breaks my heart that they can barely make it back and forth. I saw a waitress who was telling me how difficult it was for her to get to work because she couldn't afford it. But that's why they sent us here--to get this job done, and we need to get this job done.

So I think, on behalf of the American people, we need to continue the process. We've been down several roads, and some of those had some bumps and some of them had some dead ends, but let's hope that this has a path to lower energy costs and that this has a path to building this country's infrastructure, which is so important for what the business of this country is. The business of this country is business. It wasn't Big Government. So we can do it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I will be very brief.

The gentleman said that I had said before we had smoke and mirrors, and once again we have smoke and mirrors. Every opportunity was given to the other side. My committee sat for some 18 hours. They never brought this issue up. We heard over 100 Democrat amendments. It was not brought up in one of the single 200 amendments proposed to the committee.

What this is is an obstruction to getting people working, to getting our infrastructure for this country built. We need to vote down this motion to recommit and let's move forward in getting America building its infrastructure and getting people to work and affordable energy to people that can't even afford to fill up their gas tank today. I've had it with these delays.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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