Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020

Floor Speech

Date: June 24, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Chairman, if you had granted me more than 5 minutes, I would have spent much more of that time talking about how good it was to see you there in the chair, but you will just have to know I am feeling it here, even though I can't belabor that point.

I serve on the Transportation Committee, Mr. Chairman, and my amendment proposes to strike jurisdiction that belongs to the Transportation Committee from the appropriations bill. Now, as you know, clause 2 of the House Rules prohibits legislating on an appropriations bill, but the House Rules Committee waived those rules as this bill came to the floor, so the only alternative I have is to come and try to strike that provision.

The truth is that we have not had a single hearing on this provision in the Transportation Committee, Mr. Chairman. We have not had a single witness testify in the Transportation Committee. We have had bills sitting in the Transportation Committee that purport to deal with this topic since January and have not called a single bit of activity directed in this direction, despite having moved a whole host of bills to the House floor already this year.

I see that my friends, the chairman of the Transportation Committee and the chair of the subcommittee, have put out a Dear Colleague encouraging the defeat of this amendment, surrendering this jurisdiction of the Transportation Committee to the Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Chairman, there are times that we do have to legislate on appropriations bills, those times that we can't have a functioning authorizing process. That is not the case with Chairman DeFazio. It is not the case with Chairwoman Holmes Norton, and I cannot imagine, for the life of me, why this House would choose to tuck into the back of an appropriations bill language that should be heard by the full authorizing committee.

If we strike this language today, my commitment is to work with all my friends in the House to try to move language forward through the regular authorizing process and have that back on the House floor this year.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Chairman, I would have said in the realm of common sense that the authorizing committee should be allowed to authorize.

I would have said the realm of common sense would have been that, if we have a committee that is functioning, we should allow that committee to function.

I would have said in the realm of common sense, if the committee chairman supports it and the subcommittee chairman supports it, that perhaps we should have had a hearing where we at least talked about it.

I ask, Mr. Chairman, when 80 percent of the TIFIA money goes to only 10 States, what impact does this have on smaller States?

I would yield to anyone who knows, but we don't know because this isn't the authorizing committee.

The cardinal is absolutely right: He provided additional money in CIG dollars this year. But when there are projects on the horizon that would, by themselves, as a single project, Mr. Chair, consume not 1- year's worth of funding, not 2-years' worth of funding, but 3-years' worth of funding, leaving nothing for any other projects in the Nation, what is the impact of having a mandatory authorization?

I see my friend, the chairman, at the desk. I love working with my friend, the chairman, in the committee. In his Dear Colleague that he and Eleanor Holmes Norton sent last year, he pointed out exactly what I am concerned about today, Mr. Chair. He said: ``As you know, the CIG program's statutory language is not like a typical discretionary grant program. . . . It is a pipeline program where eligible projects that meet the statutory criteria . . . are funded subject only to continuing appropriations.''

The ``may'' language my friend from North Carolina cited, rather than ``shall'' language, is included specifically because there is no discretion to prevent the large projects from sucking all the money out of the funding stream.

I have that concern, and I would love to be able to share that concern and talk about that concern in the committee of jurisdiction. Again, I commit to working with any Member who wants to move such language forward.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Chair, I know my friend from Oregon, when he talked about rotten politics and those motivations, wasn't talking about me. I know that he was not. If he had been, we would have taken that conversation a different direction. I know that he was not because my concern is sincere.

The fact that so much of that conversation centered on the White House does make me wonder whether or not politics is at play here.

To have the authorizing chairman say on the floor of the House that there is no statutory difference between the Secretary ``may'' and the Secretary ``shall'' is the most shocking thing I have heard in 2019. It is the definition of a categorical difference.

We put ``may'' in there for a reason, and that is to prevent a perversion of the process, the perversion that I am concerned about, the perversion that my friend from Oregon could dismiss if only we would hold a hearing in the committee and allow me to hear from some experts about it.

My concern is sincere, and the concern of communities in my State is sincere. There is a reason the House rules prohibit doing this on the House floor because our shared concerns are sincere.

Mr. Chair, I urge support of the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.