Boxer Statement: Surface Transportation Conference Press Briefing
May 15, 2012
(Remarks as Prepared for Delivery)
At the opening meeting of the surface transportation bill conference on May 8th, I said I would give regular updates on the progress that the conferees have made.
While I am not going to address specific negotiations or discussions between the conferees today, I can tell you that we have moved past the organizational stage, and we are now working on the substance of the bill.
Staff has been meeting every day on all the issues, and they are working together to address each outstanding item. This week alone, 12 meetings of the working groups have been scheduled. Additional working sessions will be scheduled.
Vice Chairman Mica and I have been in touch by phone and are scheduled to meet on Thursday.
The process has been very inclusive, which I expect to lead to a good result. Every conferee has been involved - from the freshmen to the most senior.
I am optimistic that the conferees will reach agreement on the surface transportation bill, because our bipartisan Senate bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which passed by an overwhelming vote of 74-22, has many proposals the House supports, such as an expanded TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program, consolidations, and more state and local flexibility.
This conference was up and running in record time, because this bill is vitally important to the nation's workers, businesses, and the economy. One reason that our conference got off to a fast start is because we are running up against a June 30th deadline, when the current transportation extension expires. Transportation systems play a critical role in the nation's economy, and we must pass a conference report before the end of June.
Today, several business and labor organizations sent a letter to conferees demanding action. The letter is signed by:
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
National Asphalt Pavement Association
American Trucking Association
American Society of Civil Engineers
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
American Automobile Association
The Associated General Contractors of America
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
American Council of Engineering Companies
American Road & Transportation Builders Association
Transporation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Laborers' International Union of North America
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Manufacturers
American Public Transportation Association
American Highway Users Alliance
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association
Associated Equipment Distributors
The letter states: "This is a historic moment, because the American economy is at risk and the nation is falling even further behind on our infrastructure needs. The nation's economy is at a critical stage, and this surface transportation legislation can be a major factor in ensuring that we will strengthen our overall position in the world economy."
The letter goes on to say ". . . failure to enact this legislation will be devastating to America's workers, jobs, businesses, and the economy."
In a Politico opinion piece, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote: "Congress and President Barack Obama must work toward passage of a bill out of conference before June 30. The nation cannot afford for them to fail in finding a way to sustain federal funds through 2013 or to address many of the inefficiencies of current federal law."
We all recognize the critical importance of this legislation -- the conferees are fully engaged. Our goal is to complete the conference report by early June to provide enough time to pass both houses and be signed into law by the President before the June 30th deadline.
The country needs us to pass a surface transportation bill so that we can fix our aging infrastructure, create many jobs in the private sector, and boost the economy. The health of our businesses, workers, and communities depend on it - 3 million jobs are at stake. Failure is not an option.
I will now take questions.