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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 4348, the second Surface Transportation Extension Act that we have considered this year.

It has become eminently clear that the Republicans in the House cannot get consensus among themselves on a long-term transportation bill. They can't get consensus on a short-term transportation bill. They can barely pass this 90-day extension. The only way to get it through is to yet again add the Keystone pipeline and other anti-environmental measures. The Republican leadership keeps playing the same cards over and over, but nobody is playing this game anymore. The Senate has moved on. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill. We should do the same.

The purpose of this extension is to serve as a vehicle to formally go to conference with the Senate. I must confess that I might be inclined to vote for it on that basis. If it passes, the House position in conference will essentially be an extension of current law, putting the policy reforms in the Senate bill on a stronger footing; but I fear that this is really just a delaying tactic and a smokescreen.

For a year and a half, the House Republicans have stubbornly refused to work with Democrats to develop a bipartisan bill, completely upending the historical traditions of our committee. This is despite the fact that there are plenty of individual Republican Members who are willing to work with us on certain issues.

When H.R. 7, the original Republican long-term reauthorization bill, was introduced, several Republican Members joined me on an amendment to preserve the transit funding that would have been gutted in H.R. 7.

That was probably one of the reasons that H.R. 7 was ultimately pulled before it could get to the floor. So there are clearly Members on the other side of the aisle who would work with us to develop a bipartisan bill, but the Republican leadership stubbornly refuses to let that happen. Why should we expect anything different in conference?

The Republican leadership could also just bring up the Senate bill, but they won't even allow a vote. Why? What are they afraid of? Because they know it would pass. And what would be wrong with that? The Senate bill isn't perfect, but it's a bipartisan compromise measure that would put people to work right away and provide more certainty to the transportation agencies than a stream of short-term extensions. We could resolve this situation right now, but they continue to block legislation that would likely pass both Chambers, on a bipartisan basis, and be signed into law by the President.

I hope that my concerns about the intent of the other side turn out to be unwarranted. I hope that if this extension passes, that it will ultimately move the process along in a positive manner and that we will have a meaningful conference that produces a good, bipartisan bill. Passing an extension is certainly better than passing H.R. 7, but given what has transpired so far, and given the addition of the Keystone pipeline and other anti-environmental measures, I must reluctantly vote ``no.''

The Keystone pipeline would cut through the United States to allow Canada to deliver up to 900,000 barrels per day of tar sand oil to gulf coast refineries. Tar sand oil extraction is destructive and dangerous. Producing one barrel of tar sand oil releases at least three times more global warming pollutants than conventional oil. If we allow this expansion to occur, it will be virtually impossible to reduce global warming. That's why the Keystone pipeline has rightfully been called a ``game-changer.'' And there is no guarantee that any of the oil extracted would be delivered to U.S. consumers. We cannot allow such a gigantic and irreversible step backward in the fight against global warming. But these objections are not the administration's. The administration simply wants to be able to complete the normal environmental review of the Keystone pipeline provided by law to decide whether to approve it or not. But this legislation mandates approval regardless of the law. It supersedes the normal process. This makes it impossible to vote for this legislation.


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