/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 2

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 2

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Our hearing today is on H.R. 2, which started out as the majority’s attempt to reauthorize the highway bill but has since morphed into the Speaker’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure wish list.

In the past, the surface transportation bill has always been a bipartisan endeavor. SAFETEA-LU in 2005, MAP-21 in 2012 and the FAST Act in 2015 were all bipartisan bills that reauthorized highway programs, allocated money to other surface transportation priorities and ensured that the Highway Trust Fund would remain solvent.

But today, the majority is moving forward with a partisan and deeply flawed bill. In the surface transportation reauthorization piece of the bill that was reported out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week, while critical and necessary highway construction programs are reauthorized, the majority has made sure that these programs will be smothered in red tape and has made sure that every infrastructure program is actually now a climate change program. 

New grant programs and new mandates are added that will siphon off funding from places it really needs to go. New environmental mandates derived from the Green New Deal will snarl construction projects at every turn. And a focus on mass transit means that rural and suburban districts, exactly like the one I represent, will be forced to spend surface transportation dollars in inefficient ways instead of on road repairs and road construction like we so desperately need. To make matters worse, the bill doesn’t even ensure the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent. It just transfers funds into it from general tax revenue. 

And once this bill was reported out of committee, it morphed from a partisan highway bill reauthorization into a massive $1.5 trillion Democratic wish list. The majority tacked on all kinds of things that are not normally found in a surface transportation bill. Nine billion dollars for a new broadband internet benefit program and $80 billion to build broadband infrastructure. Two hundred million dollars for solar installations. Billions of dollars for hospital construction. One billion dollars for abandoned mines. A tax credit for people who buy electric cars. I could go on and on and on.

Mr. Chairman, some of these may be good or even worthy ideas for consideration, but tacking on a wish list like this is not the way to achieve bipartisan consensus on the highway bill. This is an enormously expensive list of projects without any basis in reality, or even any indication that this covers what our national infrastructure needs actually are. And, I’d remind this committee that this bill is ultimately going nowhere. It will not be passed by the Senate, and the president will not sign it.

I think there’s a much better way to do this. Republicans stand ready to work hand in hand with the majority on real, bipartisan solutions.  

Maybe we will ultimately get there in the coming weeks. But I’m confident that the bill before us is not the way to do so.

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Created: June 29, 2020