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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WEBSTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule and the potential it holds for a bipartisan, bicameral agreement for a long-term transportation reauthorization bill.

House Resolution 600 provides for a closed rule for prompt consideration of H.R. 4281, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012.

H.R. 4281 simply calls for a 90-day extension of current transportation legislation at existing funding levels. Without the extension, critical transportation programs around the country will begin to shut down Saturday night at midnight. The Federal Government will no longer be able to collect the user fees necessary to maintain the highway trust fund, and eventually it would be unable to pay obligations that have already been incurred for construction projects. Most importantly, according to recent reports, a shutdown Saturday would immediately furlough 3,500 Federal employees and put up to 130,000 highway projects at risk.

A 90-day extension is no one's ideal scenario; but at this juncture it appears necessary, necessary not only to avoid the calamity that comes from current legislation's expiration, but also necessary for the continued potential for a long-term reauthorization. With passage of this extension, a long-term reauthorization remains within reach.

The transportation bill passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has many laudable provisions. It streamlines and consolidates Federal transportation programs, cuts red tape and Washington bureaucracy, and increases funding flexibility to States and local governments, better leverages existing infrastructures resources, and encourages more private sector participation in rebuilding our Nation's infrastructure. It provides 5 years of certainty and stability with flat funding that is paid for without raising taxes.

I'm sure that the authors and proponents of the Senate bill can point to a menu of laudable policy provisions within their bill as well.

With this extension, we don't give up on the likelihood of the best of both bills being reconciled, and long-term certainty and stability can be provided to those tasked with rebuilding our Nation's transportation infrastructure.

To be sure, however, the task at hand remains avoiding expiration of the existing authorization this Saturday night. I don't have to reiterate the consequences that loom if we do not act. As the Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter to the Members earlier this week: ``An extension is not the best course of action, but it must be done.''

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this rule and the potential this short-term extension holds for coming together in a bipartisan, bicameral way for a long-term authorization of our Nation's transportation programs.

I encourage my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on this rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WEBSTER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, in 2005, the Congress passed SAFETEA LU, which is the last transportation reauthorization bill that was long term. There was, under the Democratic-controlled House, a bill proposed by the chairman that never made it to the floor, and because it didn't make it to the floor--my, my, my, how we've forgotten. It was only a couple of years ago. But it didn't make it. It expired. SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009, September 30, and there was a bill, never got marked up, never happened.

So what happens instead? Well, let's see. Number 1, Democrats did a 1-month extension. Number 2, there was a 1.5-month extension. Number 3, there was a 2.5-month extension. Number 4, there was a 1-month extension. Number 5, there was a 9-month extension. Number 6, there was a 2-month extension.

So, I'm not sure what you're talking about, but as far as lack of leadership, we are a long way from having that many extensions. We're a long way from having done what was done in the previous Congress.

I would suspect that we have an opportunity here, and that opportunity, the way to avoid a shutdown of the Nation's transportation programs this Saturday night, is to pass this extension. The only way we can get to that is pass this rule which allows for us to consider that extension.

The only way we can keep ourselves from having 3,500

Federal employees furloughed is to pass this extension. The only way we can keep 130,000 projects that are highway projects from being at risk is to pass this.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WEBSTER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the other side at least letting me know what they did over the last 2 years. They bifurcated the construction projects. They did it six times. At least now we know that they have knowledge of what they did during those times when they only gave, in some cases, 1-month extensions.

I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Nugent), my colleague.


Mr. WEBSTER. Mr. Speaker, again, I will go back over this list because we must have forgotten it since I presented it a few minutes ago.

The Democrats, when they were in control, passed a 1-month extension back on October 1, 2009; 1 month, no amendments; 1.5 months a little bit later, no amendments; 2.5 months, no amendments; 1 month, no amendments; 9 months, no amendments; 2 months, no amendments.

I'm not sure what they're talking about, Mr. Speaker. Pass the extension.


Mr. WEBSTER. The situation we find ourselves in is certainly not ideal. I've been a strong proponent of a long-term reauthorization of Federal transportation programs. Recently, reauthorizations haven't been that long-term. But that's more often than not, also. The goal everyone is seeking is a long-term reauthorization. I hear that, the necessity of it, from all transportation officials all over the country, including my own State and in my own district.

Without the ability to plan over the course of several years--not 3 months, not 17 months--that lack of certainty has increased the operating costs. It increases cost uncertainty, and that is the death knell for critical infrastructure projects in this economy.

As my colleagues have noted, transportation reauthorization bills are typically bipartisan affairs. Unfortunately, we don't have a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a viable long-term reauthorization yet. But the passage of this brief extension gives us the opportunity to once again bring both sides to the table to try to work out a collaborative effort and a collaborative solution to this problem. I think that's what the American people want. It's our responsibility to make sure that happens, and this is the last chance to do it before the current legislation expires at midnight on Saturday.

I ask my colleagues to join me in voting in favor of this rule.

The material previously referred to by Mr. McGovern is as follows:

An Amendment to H. Res. 600 Offered By Mr. McGovern of Massachusetts

At the end of the resolution, add the following new sections:

SEC. 3. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution the Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 14) to reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill.

Sec. 4. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of the bill specified in section 3 of this resolution.

(The information contained herein was provided by the Republican Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 110th and 111th Congresses.)

The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means

This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308 311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''

Because the vote today may look bad for the Republican majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule. ..... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''

In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''

Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.

I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.


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