Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Full Committee Business Meeting
September 8, 2011, 10:00 a.m.
I would like to thank Chairman Boxer for holding today’s business meeting. Passing the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 is essential. It’s a no-brainer. What matters is passing a two-year bill. If we fail to enact an extension prior to the end of this fiscal year, thousands of highway projects will be at risk of being stopped in their tracks, which would threaten tens of thousands of jobs.
We’ve passed seven highway extensions since the last highway bill expired in 2009. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this extension.
Tonight, President Obama is going to call for another round of infrastructure spending. It is certainly not the first time he’s gotten involved in this issue. His efforts are detrimental to getting a long-term highway bill done because it makes this issue a political one and his track record on infrastructure is abysmal.
President Obama has time and time again put forward an infrastructure agenda that has failed. He talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Let me give you a few examples.
· The President called for a stimulus bill that invested in transportation infrastructure, but in the end less than 3% of that bill went to fund roads and bridges.
· Last Labor Day, his “big” announcement was that he wanted to provide $50 billion for infrastructure, but he failed to even send Congress a legislative proposal.
· In his fiscal year 2012 budget, President Obama proposed record levels of infrastructure spending, but he failed to propose a way to pay for them. CBO scored it as adding to his $1.65 trillion dollar 2012 deficit.
· Finally, he has been in office for almost three years and he has yet to send Congress a highway bill proposal.
President Obama has talked more about infrastructure than any other President since Eisenhower proposed the interstate system, but he has done substantially less than any other President. He makes announcements, but fails to follow through with proposals for Congress to consider. Last week, the President made a Rose Garden speech, calling for an extension. It is obvious that we need to pass an extension. Where is the President going to be on the real bill? Is he going to continue to be absent? Let me repeat, the President has been in office for almost three years and he has yet to send Congress a highway bill proposal.
I would like to commend the Chairman for her leadership and dedication to passing a 2-year highway bill. Together, with Senators Baucus and Vitter, we have put together a good bill, which makes a number of important policy reforms and maintains the current level of funding. This extension will give us more time to find a bipartisan way to fill our bill’s $12 billion shortfall. Just to put this in perspective, the Administration didn’t have any trouble passing an $800 billion plus so-called stimulus bill. We need to use these four months to move forward on our 2-year bill.
Passing a 2-year highway bill is critical for my home state of Oklahoma and nation. A recent editorial in the Tulsa World rightly pointed out the economic benefits of a bill: “Transportation projects not only produce jobs during construction but also in the aftermath, when new economic activity sprouts along highway corridors.” Similarly, an editorial in the Oklahoman entitled “Cuts in highway funds would really hurt Oklahoma” discussed possible delays in critical projects. This is going to be repeated in every state in the nation.
Failure to act will be devastating to jobs and the economy. I strongly urge my colleagues to support us in this effort.