Nov 03 2011
M. President, I rise today to address the competing proposals to build infrastructure in this country and create jobs.
Earlier this week, I attended the ribbon-cutting for the Bluestone Dam in Hinton, West Virginia. When they started work on that dam, the engineers told me that it we didn’t fix it, the first floor of the Capitol would be underwater.
Roads and bridges are in terrible condition in every state across this great nation. Every member of the House and every member of the Senate has a road or a bridge that could be fixed. It’s just commonsense that we put our political parties aside and work together to get this done.
I believe in infrastructure. Our economy can’t grow if people can’t go. In West Virginia, we are a very rural state, which means we have to drive to survive.
Infrastructure is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea – it’s a commonsense idea. A road is not a Democrat or Republican road, a bridge is not a Democrat or Republican bridge, nor is a sewer line Democrat or Republican. Both Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower both made major investments in our infrastructure.
This is bipartisan because building infrastructure helps solve two problems: it fixes our crumbling roads and bridges, and it creates much-needed American jobs.
Of all the people in my state applying for unemployment, construction workers are the biggest group – at 20 percent.
Today we will vote on two jobs proposals – a Democratic measure and a Republican measure that funds transportation and reins in the EPA and regulations.
I believe both of these bills will help kickstart the economy and create the American jobs we need.
I will vote for both of them – but both of them will fail. Not because they are bad ideas or wrong for this country, but because both sides are playing the blame game. They would rather point fingers than share credit for getting something done. And that is just wrong.
When it comes to the Democratic proposal, I support it so strongly that I am a cosponsor. Now, it’s no secret that I don’t agree with everything the President says or does. But this is a good, commonsense idea: invest $50 billion dollars in our roads, bridges and airports and another $10 billion in creating a public-private infrastructure bank.
If you invest in infrastructure, I can tell you one thing: you get an American working in America, an American spending money in America and an American fixing America.
Is there anything more commonsense than that?
Let me be clear: I support the way we’re paying for this bill – by adding a seven-tenths of one percent surtax to income over $1 million dollars. But I also know my colleagues across the aisle have some trouble with it.
But make no mistake, infrastructure is such a high priority that I’m also open and willing to listen to other ways to pay for it that would get bipartisan support.
This bill costs $6 billion dollars a year. I can’t speak for everyone in this Chamber, but I know there are bipartisan offsets out there, whether it’s using unobligated funds, reducing agriculture subsidies like ethanol or ending spending on infrastructure in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of those ideas already have strong bipartisan support. For example, 73 members of this Chamber voted to end ethanol subsidies – showing we can come together and agree on a pay-for.
Let me turn now to the Republican alternative. This bill isn’t perfect, either. A two-year extension of transportation spending doesn’t give states the certainty they need to make investments over the long-term timelines that construction projects operate on.
With that being said, I’m a strong supporter of reining in the EPA – which this bill does – and I believe we have to set our transportation priorities.
Unfortunately, Washington has become so dysfunctional and so focused on scoring political points that instead of working together to reach a commonsense compromise, both of these bills will fail because of politics.
This is not why the people of West Virginia sent me to Washington. This is not why any American sent their representatives here. This must stop.
And so, yet again, I will urge my colleagues and friends on both sides of the aisle to focus on the next generation, not the next election.
Thank you M. President, and I yield the floor.