Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing with Shailen Bhatt, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), to discuss implementation of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today’s hearing, and your ongoing willingness to conduct oversight on the IIJA and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Administrator Mr. Bhatt, it's very good to see you. I know that you've been extremely busy here over the last several days. Since your confirmation you have maintained a very open line of communication with me and my staff. And I want to express our appreciation for doing that. I also want to thank your hardworking staff at the agency. I know they work on a lot of different issues.
“I would also like to acknowledge the tragic incident on I-95 in Philadelphia, the pictures are just overwhelming. And I know you’ve been on the ground.
“I appreciate the responsiveness of FHWA in providing assistance to the state of Pennsylvania.
“I know the investigation is underway and Congress will be provided more information when it is available.
“I am proud very that this Committee, as the chairman said, developed the legislation that served as the foundation of the IIJA, and we did so together, bipartisan through regular order.
“I was proud to manage the bill on the floor with the chairman, and to attend the signing ceremony at the White House.
“Unfortunately, our bipartisan product was jeopardized, this was before you got there, by FHWA’s December 2021 policy memorandum.
“But I want to thank you, Administrator Bhatt, for issuing a substantially revised policy memorandum that superseded the original one.
“I appreciate that you recognized the original memorandum diminished the bipartisan accomplishment of this Committee and contradicted the statutory text and the clear intent of Congress.
“When the IIJA was signed into law, we promised the American people that the legislation would deliver results by improving our nation’s core transportation infrastructure, and we are starting to see real tangible benefits of that investment.
“In negotiating the legislation, I prioritized the inclusion of a robust project delivery and process improvement title that included codification of the One Federal Decision policy for surface transportation projects.
“I look forward to receiving an update from you today about how the agency is implementing those provisions and others in the IIJA.
“Proper implementation of the law is the only way to see the full benefits of the IIJA will be realized.
“Now on to the inaptly named Inflation Reduction Act, which has not, and will not, reduce inflation.
“Following passage of the IIJA, the administration embarked on a partisan exercise to pass what I believe are misguided policies through the budget reconciliation process.
“That effort began with the introduction of the so-called Build Back Better legislation in 2021, and culminated with President Biden signing the IRA into law in August of 2022.
“The original version of the reconciliation legislation included a provision that would have directed FHWA to establish a greenhouse gas emissions performance measure and associated targets.
“I challenged that provision as violating the Byrd Rule of the Congressional Budget Act, and that provision was stripped from the legislation.
“That removal of language was the second time since I became Ranking Member of this Committee that we have dealt with this policy.
“And that was the second time that Congress directly rejected FHWA the authority to establish a greenhouse gas performance measure and associated targets.
“Providing this authority to FHWA was also debated, and ultimately left out of the bipartisan IIJA.
“The Biden administration, through your agency, is now attempting, and the chairman just talked about this, to impose a greenhouse gas emissions performance measure and associated targets on state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations, without any authority from Congress.
“This rulemaking feels very similar to the December 2021 policy memorandum.
“Yet again, this administration is trying to implement partisan policies they wish had been included the IIJA and the IRA through agency action.
“I am hopeful that under your leadership the rulemaking for a greenhouse gas emissions performance measure and associated targets will not move forward.
“On a related note, I also want to express my concern with a proposal that the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget request has.
“The budget request included legislative language that would repurpose $60 million in unobligated contract authority from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, to the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program.
“This is in the weeds but I know you understand what I’m talking about. The IIJA did not provide contract authority for that program.
“It received an authorization but it is subject to appropriations.
“This Committee determines what programs receive contract authority and how much, not the Department.
“I hope this is not something that your agency plans to pursue, as once again, the Committee has already made a decision here.
“Finally, I want to raise an issue that is not directly related to either of the laws that we are discussing today, but may have a significant impact on how state DOTs manage their programs and their ability to move forward.
“I am referring to the $3.5 billion discrepancy in contract authority between the two financial management systems, known as FMIS and Delphi.
“I appreciate that you brought this issue to my attention in January and look forward to receiving an update from you on how DOT plans to resolve this discrepancy.
“In summary, the topics of our hearing today starkly contrast the different outcomes in quality and durability. We get great quality and durability when the Senate pursues bipartisan legislation through regular order.
“And we compare that to a partisan legislation through budget reconciliation process that believe falls short. Nevertheless, oversight of your implementation of these two laws is a critical function of this committee.
“I would like to take one moment to say farewell to a much beloved and incredible member of our staff over here, the Republican staff at EPW. Lauren Baker will be leaving us. I don't know if it's today or tomorrow but way too soon.
“And she really helped to shepherd the IIJA through our committee. She is an incredible resource. I know she'll be successful where she goes. But Lauren, we will miss her and I know your department will miss her as well because of the great give and take that we've been able to have with her and through your department. So thank you for letting me bid Lauren a fond farewell.”
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