Statement in Opposition to the Surface Transportation Bill

Feb 16, 2012

Mr. Chairman:

I rise in opposition to the surface transportation bill before the House of Representatives this week and the partisan and contorted process the Republican Leadership is using to ram this bill through the House.

For as long as I have served in the House, transportation bills have always been bipartisan.  That’s because every one of our states confront unmet transportation needs, and infrastructure investments are critical to jobs, economic growth, and competitiveness.

But this bill throws bipartisanship out the window.  Secretary of Transportation LaHood – himself a former Republican House Member from Illinois – recently said that this is, and I quote, “the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen.”  Secretary LaHood also declared that this is “the worst transportation bill I’ve seen during 35 years of public service.”  That’s quite an indictment coming from a man who is respected on both sides of the aisle.

Some of our constituents may be watching and wondering why Speaker Boehner decided to take the transportation package and divide it into three separate bills.  The reality is that the bill probably can’t pass as a single, stand-alone piece of legislation.  So the Leadership has broken the bill into pieces that will move separately through the House.  Later, the clerk will be directed to sew all the pieces back into one bill and it will be deemed passed without a single member of the House voting for it. 

Today we’re considering the portion of the bill that opens up vast swaths of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the pristine Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  The bill also approves the controversial Keystone Pipeline and there is not even a guarantee that any of the oil that it transports to the Gulf of Mexico will remain in the country to benefit Americans.  What does handing out more goodies to the oil companies have to do with transportation policy? The oil industry made record profits last year.  They don’t need the special interest provisions contained in this bill.

Although this portion of the transportation package is not before the House today, I want to state my complete opposition to the provision of the larger package that undercuts mass transit. This provision undermines the very structure of the highway trust fund by eliminating guaranteed funding for transit and replacing it with monies from the general fund. The loss of dedicated revenue will make it impossible for public transit systems across the country to plan for long-term investments. I will continue to strongly support efforts to correct this unnecessary and harmful attack on mass transit.

I urge defeat of the bill before the House.  We need to go back to the drawing board and craft a bipartisan transportation bill.