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Investing in A New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act

Floor Speech

Date: June 30, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I listened earlier today to the Democratic leader that I hold in great esteem, by the way, wax poetically about this bill before us now, wax poetically about how it was developed. I asked for a copy of it. The chairman has a copy in front of him there.

In 3 weeks that massive document was suddenly put together. And he asks where is the President's bill? After all the time that both the Democratic leader as well as the chairman of this committee has been here, they know we don't need a bill from the President to move something forward that will work for America. We don't need to sit back and wait for somebody else. We are the legislative body. It is our bill. It should be our bill, not their bill, not the Republican bill, but our bill.

Because change in America more often is achieved by a bipartisan effort on legislation. And believe it or not, over the last 4 years we have been here, we have actually achieved that a few times, and it is making change in America.

The USMCA, the trade agreement finally replacing NAFTA, actually becomes official tomorrow finally. And that was a bipartisan effort with a lot of teeth, which I know, Mr. Speaker, you are aware of. That took quite an effort to achieve. But it also became a bipartisan effort to improve trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico finally. Is it perfect? Very little ever is, but you sure hope it is better than what we had, which I think we can all agree wasn't working very well.

We achieved the term before that something called the FIRST STEP Act, which was criminal justice reform to finally revise sentencing in criminal justice at the Federal level after more than a decade of wrangling over that.

And how was that achieved? By a bipartisan effort, not a 2,300-page bill developed solely by one side of the aisle brought forth in a matter of 10 days, and ta-da we have a magic answer that will solve all the problems in America or at least in terms of transportation and the Green New Deal. It was by bipartisan effort.

Like the ranking member, I worked hard to get on committees that were bipartisan and would make a difference. I was thrilled to join the House Armed Services Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because we had a history of working on a bipartisan basis, which to be honest with you, as of last week was tossed in the dumpster.

You see, a colleague of mine, a Democrat and I, we put forth a bipartisan op-ed and policy proposal to fund a national infrastructure investment bank. That may not have been the best idea. But it was an idea to create an investment fund that would allow States to decide what they need to do, rather than have the bureaucrats in Washington or in this body, for God's sake, decide whether or not you need a bridge versus a railroad or broadband versus pipelines.

We actually had a way, believe it or not, to fund it. Can you imagine that? We had a way to actually fund what it is we are talking about authorizing. A radical idea apparently. Never discussed. Never discussed at all.

So instead of moving America forward, we are moving America into a ditch. We have a bill that started out at committee at $500 billion, and miraculously in less than a week we added $1 billion to it--a trillion; I am sorry, Bs and Ts still get me messed up--we added $1 trillion to it. It is now $1.5 trillion. By the way, with no plan to actually fund this thing.

Estimates on the $500 billion was we would have to increase the gas tax. We would have to double it. That was just for the $500 billion. We would have to raise the diesel tax significantly, as well. That was just for that part, but it is not in this bill. It is not in this bill at all.

So how do we pay for this? Maybe we just have more debt. That is what is suggested by the chairman. We will just get more debt because, hey, debt is great for America.

Then we go and we look at what is in this bill. The bill increases transit funding by 72 percent.

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Mr. MITCHELL. I thank the ranking member, as I was just getting rolling.

It increases funding by 72 percent for transit funding. Meanwhile, we have COVID-19. Use of transit is declining. It is not entirely clear it will ever come back, but we will throw more money at it because that makes more sense. $2 of every $5 will be spent in this section of the bill on the Green New Deal. Forty percent of the additional money will be spent on the Green New Deal. I thought it was a transportation bill. Mess with me every time.

Last but not least, it leaves rural America behind. Frankly, I will go back to the ditch. We have big ditches where I am from, very large culverts. And we are in one now because, for example, the majority creates the Rebuild Rural grant program that receives $250 million. Woo-hoo, there we go, a little bit of money for them.

Meanwhile, there is a new program for electric charging stations that will largely benefit urban areas because we are going to put $1.7 billion into electric charging stations. That is not going to help out a whole lot in my district in rural America. It makes no sense that 71 percent of public lane mileage is in rural America, but the majority of this goes to urban America.

If we are going to move America forward, Mr. Chairman, maybe we should just call it the moving urban America forward and the rest of you all can go back and handle it on your own because this bill doesn't do it.

So I will ask one more time, I ask the committee--we sat through, what was it, Mr. Chairman, 26 hours of fun entertainment? I will ask one more time: Can we actually do something that this committee that I was proud of, which is a bipartisan effort to make transportation in America work for all Americans that we can afford and addresses the problems? And, yes, I will even accept the Green New Deal, if we talk about it on a bipartisan basis. If we talk about things we know make a difference. I will accept that. I don't deny that it exists, but it would be nice if we didn't throw dollars at everything and hope something works.

So once more, please, a bipartisan effort, and I would be happy to support it.

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