Daniel Reilly, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - Today House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) offered a Motion to Instruct Conferees that would instruct Conferees on the Surface Transportation Extension Act to adopt the bipartisan Senate transportation bill. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, tomorrow will mark, as I said a little earlier, 100 days since the United States Senate approved its bipartisan compromise highway bill in the United States Senate. Seventy-four senators voted for that. Essentially half of the Republican conference in the United States Senate voted for that bill.
“There has been a bill in the House committee, that bill has languished in the House committee for many, many months. In fact, about four months after the Speaker said he wanted to bring it to the floor, it has not come to the floor – apparently, because the Republican party is divided on that bill, and they don't have the votes for that bill. The measure that passed the Senate, 74-22 – and it would have been, by the way, 75-22, had Frank Lautenberg been there; he made that statement on the floor. That's 3/4 of the Senate with the support of 22 Senate Republicans.
“Americans are wishing that we would come together, reason together, and act together to give certainty to them, to the economy, and to their country. Unfortunately the House bill that was passed was effectively a bill simply to go to conference. Now, I know my friend, and he is my friend, Mr. Shuster from Pennsylvania, will say that, in the article that was written that it was simply that House bill to which he was referring. I take him at his word he was referring to that. Very frankly, others have said that there were items in the bill in committee that were critically important to them that ought to be in the conference committee report. And obviously the Senate would not agree to those. This bill, to which I refer and which this motion to instruct refers, is supported by the chambers of commerce in cities and counties across this nation. This is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation in the great tradition of transportation bills passed since the Eisenhower era.
“The gentleman who is managing the time on the Republican side, his father was a great proponent of infrastructure investment, a great leader in this Congress on infrastructure, and, in fact, participated every time that I think he brought a bill out or, as Ranking Member, he worked with, was passed in a bipartisan fashion. Unfortunately we haven't gotten to that point at this point in time.
“Instead of taking up that bill, the Senate bill, and allowing us to have a vote on it here in the House – and, in my opinion, if the Republican leadership let its members vote free of influence by the leadership – that bill would have the majority of votes on this House floor. Speaker Boehner has said he wants this House to work its will. In my point of view, in my estimation, that bill has a majority support on the floor of this House. It would have, I think, every Democratic vote, just as the Export-Import Bank had every vote on our side of the aisle. And that's why it passed overwhelmingly, notwithstanding the Republican position.
“House Republicans have once again turned an opportunity to invest in job creation into a partisan exercise in saying no to any legislation that might strengthen our recovery and lower our unemployment rate. Now, I’m not unmindful, and I believe the Gentleman from Pennsylvania will observe, there apparently has been some progress made. The progress that has been made is unknown to the Democratic side of this aisle. Neither the Ranking Member knows what progress has been made nor the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee knows what progress has been made. But we are going to be told, apparently, there is some progress that's been made. I hope that's the case. But very frankly if that progress is not made, we ought to pass the Senate bill.
“When presented with a real chance to lead, frankly, Republicans, in my view, too often have walked away. Whether it was keeping government going on continuing resolutions, whether it was on making sure that the most reliable creditworthy nation in the world did not default on its debt, whether it was on passing an Export-Import reauthorization to make sure we created jobs and were competitive in this country. Too often our Republican friends have decided not to go there.
“Republicans have been unwilling to act on bills, in several cases playing a dangerous game by holding bills hostage. As I said, this includes the debt limit crisis last summer and debate over extending the middle class payroll tax last December. Over and over again our Republican colleagues have proven themselves to be the ‘walk away caucus.’ This Congress has been in session for only 60 days so far this year. Between now and the election, we are scheduled to be in session for 38 days, but only 30 of those are full work days. Between now and the election – that's four months from now – 30 days between today, June 21, and the election in November. With one wasted opportunity after another they have earned the 112th a place in history as truly another ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ – a phrase made famous by Harry Truman.
“Mr. Speaker, my motion is simple. It is based on what's right for our economy. What does that bill mean? The Senate bill leverages funding to protect 1.9 million jobs. Why is that important? Because we lost 28,000 construction jobs last month alone. Why? Because we failed to pass this bill. In addition to the 1.9 million jobs that this bill would provide, it would provide another one million jobs as we expand transportation opportunities.
“In my home state of Maryland, nearly 29,000 jobs are supported by federal transportation investment. Those are jobs of families who are paying taxes, sending their kids to school, buying groceries, buying goods and services, and supporting our economy. And in Speaker Boehner's home state of Ohio, over 55,000 jobs are supported by this. In Virginia, Republican [Majority] Leader Cantor's home state, 40,000 jobs are on the line. That highway funding expires July 1, just a few days from now. For the sake of all these workers, for the sake of all these families who rely on these jobs, and for the sake of all those workers and families who will be advantaged by the passage of those bills and the jobs that it will create, not only save but create.
“In Maryland, in Ohio, in Virginia – my colleague, Mr. Ryan, is here – and across our country, ladies and gentlemen of this House, let's pass a transportation bill that isn't simply another short-term extension. Such extensions provide no certainty to the businesses that rely on sound infrastructure to move goods to market. Let's pass the long-term re-authorization we need that will help put our economy back in drive – not in neutral and not in R, not in reverse.
“Don't take my word for it why this is so important and so urgent. Listen to President Ronald Reagan, who said in 1982, and I quote – and I’m sure the Gentleman's dad would have supported these statements. Quote, Ronald Reagan: ‘The time has come to preserve what past Americans spent so much time and effort to create, and that means a nationwide conservation effort in the best sense of the word. America can't afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems.’
“Ladies and gentlemen, it's not too late for this ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ to make a U-turn and get back to work. It's not too late to help heed President Reagan's wise words. It's not too late to provide our businesses with the certainty they are asking for.
“I urge my Republican friends to start working with Democrats to make the investments we need to grow job and strengthen our competitiveness before it's too late. Frankly, that's what the American people expect. Let's, for once, not disappoint. Let's pass this motion and work together to move this country forward.”