Washington, D.C. -- In light of recent news reports regarding comments from House Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to call on the House to stay in session and act on the Senate’s multi-year transportation bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the six-year transportation bill tomorrow, while the House is planning to adjourn later today for a five and a half week August recess.
Click here to watch the video of Sen. Boxer’s remarks. The full transcript of Senator Boxer’s floor remarks are below:
…I want to go back to speaking about the transportation bill, and I want to thank so much the strong, strong show of support we had on this bill, with 65 colleagues voting to end debate and get a vote. And we do expect a good vote tomorrow. But I have to say, the reaction of the House Speaker really took me aback. Remember, the bill that we passed was totally bipartisan. A majority of Democrats, a strong majority of Republicans, Senators Inhofe, McConnell, Boxer, Durbin and a host of others worked very hard on this bill. So why would this Speaker of the House be so negative about it?
As a matter of fact, his comment that was reported in Politico’s online version today is such that I can’t repeat what he said on the floor of the Senate. I would be breaking the rules. And I’ll leave it up to everybody to see exactly what he said about our bipartisan bill that actually the name on the bill is that of the Leader, the Republican Leader of the United States Senate. And yet, the Speaker of the House demeaned that bill, our bill. Now I want to be clear that I defend freedom of speech and I defend the right of Speaker Boehner to say whatever he wants, and therefore I can say whatever I want. So what I would like to say today is, why on earth would you oppose a bill that is so bipartisan, that got 65 votes, that the Republican Leader has put his name to? Why would you do that?
And another question is this. I put this chart up here – where is the House bill? Mr. President, you could argue that you don’t like our bill. Where is your bill? What have you done? Where have you been? We’ve known about this transportation crisis for a long, long time. Mr. President, you and I have worked hard together, even though we disagree on so many things. We have worked together on getting a strong bill. The bill was voted out of our committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, 20 – 0. So the Speaker of the House, the Republican Speaker of the House, condemns the bill. Where is the House bill?
We’re about to pass a third extension since the last transportation bill expired in 2014. There have been dozens and dozens of extensions, more than 30. And, you know, when you extend the Highway Trust Fund just for a couple of months at a time – Senator Inhofe has taught me because I wasn’t aware of this, it is a very expensive thing to do administratively. And on the ground what happens is states are shutting down.
Now, let’s look at the seven states that have essentially canceled or delayed projects because there’s been inaction. Mr. President, Arkansas has canceled or delayed highway projects. Delaware has. Georgia has. Montana has. Tennessee has. Utah has. Wyoming has. Now, why have these states done this? It’s because they are concerned that we don’t have a long-term highway bill. That’s why we’re so excited about the bill that looks like it’s on its way to passage, because it’s a six-year authorization with a full three years of funding. Now again, I want to ask the Speaker rhetorically, what is it about our bill that he doesn’t like?
So let’s get to the highlights of the Senate bill, the bipartisan Senate bill. I will discuss them. And I would put up the chart on “Where’s the House Bill?” because that is a common question that I want to ask today. It is easy, you know, to throw darts at somebody else and say, I don’t like what you did. What you did wasn’t good enough. Where’s your answer? They have nothing, nothing but another paltry extension. Now, why do they do that? Either they don’t have an idea in the world as to how to proceed, or they want to go on a five and a half week break. This is what I want to say about that. The American people, most of us work. And I ask rhetorically, how many people in America who hold down a job get a five and a half week break, which is called an August break, which begins in July and they get that break without taking care of business? I think your boss would say ‘you know what? You’ve got a lot of problems here. Stay. Stay another couple of days.’ Oh no, they want to get out of town. They were originally going to get out of town tomorrow. My understanding is they’re trying to get out today. That gives them a five and a half week break without taking care of business. And I think anybody who is watching this, who really cares about the Highway Trust Fund, and transportation and bridges collapsing – let’s look at this one that happened in California. Mr. President, this is a frightening view of a bridge that collapsed. We were so lucky. We thanked God that nobody was killed. But we now have a bridge that has collapsed, and people have to go 400 miles out of their way to go from California to Arizona or Arizona to California. We’re hoping to fix it with emergency funds, but we can’t rebuild the part that fell that quickly. We need a long-term bill.
And I say to the Speaker, don’t go home. And I say to the Majority Whip over there, my friend from California, don’t go home. Stay and do your job. The American people are not going to think highly of you if you leave with this Highway Trust Fund going broke on Friday. And the Senate has passed a bill – it is a good bill. The Speaker used some words I can’t use here on the floor to describe it. So I want to ask the Speaker, what is it that he doesn’t like? What is it that he doesn’t like? Is it the $55 billion a year for six years, the first three years being fully paid for? Every state gets more formula funding, including his state, for highways and transit. He does not like that? He does think that we shouldn’t spend funding to fix our highways? Does he not like the freight program which will provide funds to improve goods movement? He does not like the assistance for major projects program which is going to help our states when they know that there is a real problem in their community and they want to build a project? Does the speaker not like the fact that we’ve tripled safety finds so when a Takata air bag problem happens, the companies have to step up? He does not like the fact that there’s a new law in there that says consumers should be protected from renting a car that is under recall? We stopped that. He does not like the first-ever commuter rail fund for positive train control where we can help our commuter railway put in positive train controls so we won’t have those tragedies that happen? Why he doesn’t like this bill?
It has a long list of supporters. Mr. President, let’s look at the supporters and Mr. President, I guarantee it is rare that you see the Chamber of Commerce agreeing with the International Union of Operating Engineers. It is rare that the Laborers’ International Union of North America agrees with the AAA, who agrees with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who agrees with the Brotherhood of Carpenters, who agrees with the State Highway and Transportation Officials, who agree with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who agree with the American Engineering Companies. And it goes on. It’s rare to see it. The American Highway Users, the American Public Transit Association, the America Road and Transportation Builders, the Society of Civil Engineers, the Trucking Association, the Equipment Distributors, the General Contractors, the Equipment Manufacturers, the Metropolitan Planning organizations, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, and it goes on and on and on.
Mr. President, this is America. The National Association of Counties. I used to serve as a County Supervisor. It’s hard to get us to agree. They agree to pass the bill. The National Association of Manufacturers. I understand they scored this vote. The National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the National Governors’ Association, the National League of Cities, the National Ready Mixed Concrete, the Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Portland Cement Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the AFL-CIO sent out a statement yesterday to the House. Take up this issue.
If they don’t love our bill, it is fine. I don’t’ expect them to. But I do say, where is your bill? Where is it? You can stand up on the Capitol steps and say ‘I don’t like this about it, I don’t like that about it, I don’t like the pay-fors, I don’t like what is on page 50, or page 150.’ That is your right, and I respect it. And I support your right to say this isn’t a good bill if you don’t think so. Where’s your bill? Where is the House bill? Get it together, don’t go on vacation, wait until you finish this job because I’ll tell you what happens when you go on vacation. The first person in your state to see you who is laid off because states are cutting back – we know from the Associated General Contractors – that these states lost construction jobs last month because we haven't acted on a long-term bill. Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Just last month the General Contractors told us that construction workers were laid off because we not have acted. Now, I want to say to the Speaker, Ohio is on this list. You lost jobs in Ohio. What are you doing by just saying you don't like this bill? Stay in. Do your work. You've got terrific people on both sides of the aisle on your transportation and infrastructure committee. I had the privilege of working on both sides of the aisle with Chairman Shuster, with Ranking Member Defazio, and many other members of that Committee. And I know, the Speaker has told me he wants a six-year bill and I believe him, but why put it off?
We've got the Inhofe-Boxer-McConnell-Durbin product. It passed overwhelmingly. Take it up. Now, the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget, here's what they said: ‘It's refreshing to see Congress focus on a multi-year solution instead of another short-term patch’, and they say of our bill, ‘this is a fiscally responsible bill that relies on solid offsets.’ Now, let me be clear. I didn't love every offset. I see my friend from Maryland. We tried desperately to get better offsets and there may be people in the House who don't like the offsets. Come together and figure out another way. Why don't you see if you can fully fund a six-year bill. We fully funded a three-year bill. So I ask the question of the Speaker, what is it about our bill that you don't like and where is your bill? Now, Chairman Shuster said yesterday the House needs to make itself heard and put forth its own priorities. He's right. So why are you going home for a five and a half week break when the Senate is going to be in session next week? Put off your little break here, or your long-term break here, five and a half weeks. I don't know of too many American workers who get that kind of a break in the summer. I say it's time to see your bill. I think we can get it done. I have a lot of faith in the people over there. I served in the House for ten proud years. I know how things get done. It gets done a lot easier than over here because here we have rules that are very, very old which can allow one person to hold up a bill for days and days. But they don't have it. They don't have that kind of situation. They can come together, go through the committees, come out with a rule, bring the bill to through and get to the floor and get it done.
Let me quote from the Washington Post editorial. They say -- quote -- "the Senate bill authorizes six years of spending on transportation projects under a sensible plan Senators Boxer and Inhofe worked out. The bill provides three years of guaranteed funding for the spending plan raised from a variety of sources. And they basically say -- they didn't love the process, neither did any of us, but they say it's a significant improvement from what Congress has done for the past decade. Lawmakers fumbled from short-term spending patch to short-term spending patch, a non-strategy that often relied on budget gimmicks and made it difficult for transportation officials to conduct long-term planning. So we have an opportunity, the Senate has worked its will. We have a good bill. Is it great? Is it perfect? No. Are the pay-fors great and perfect? No. Is every policy in there perfect? No. But as Amy Klobuchar has told me, we stood our ground, all of us, but we found common ground. That's important. We stood our ground but we found common ground. That's how we're supposed to do things around here. And, you know, I look at my friend who is going to speak shortly from Maryland, and I know he set the pace with Senator Corker in working out some very difficult issues in the Foreign Relations Committee and which I'm so proud to serve and so proud of my leader on that committee, Senator Cardin. They set the pace over there. And then Patty Murray worked with Lamar Alexander and they came out with an education bill. And then I worked with Senator Inhofe and he worked with me, and Mitch McConnell worked with Senator Durbin, and we came out with a product that is supported by a majority of both caucuses. I'm proud of the product. I know it's not perfect. I know if I had my way, I would have drawn up a very different bill. So would Senator Inhofe. So would Senator McConnell. So would Senator Durbin. But here's what's at stake. I'll show you the bridge again -- this is what's at stake. This is the face of what we are doing. It is bigger than our egos. It is bigger than our taking a five and a half week break.
I served as a County Supervisor and we knew the building we were in was earthquake deficient. It is still, and it is beautiful -- Frank Lloyd Wright's last built-out government building. And I served in that gorgeous building. When I found out it could collapse in an earthquake and the five County Supervisors found that out, we were told those many, many, many years ago that it was possible we could be held liable because we knew, absolutely, that this could crumble around us.
Now, I'm not saying for one second that any colleague is liable if something like this happens again, but I will tell you that I think it is, in fact, a moral question for us. How long can we put this off? I guarantee you a three month patch is not going to get the states the confidence to enter into any long-term agreements to fix any of the 60,000 plus bridges that are deficient and 50% of the roads that are not up to par.
So I say to the House, if you don't stay here and you go home after passing a short-term extension, and someone comes up and says, “Congressman or Congresswoman, I just got laid off, I'm a construction worker”, I guarantee you're going to have a hard time explaining why you left and took a five and a half week break, August break, and you left even before August 1st. It's the first time the House will ever have done that in ten years. They haven't left before August 1st in ten years, and there's a lot on our plates.
Instead, we're going to talk about Planned Parenthood. Fine. I welcome the argument because to me it's the same old, same old argument about interfering with women's health. I'll go there with you. I'll be there with you. I'll fight that battle for the people of America, the women of America. I don't mind that, but we've got to do this.
We've got to do this in the House. We've got to pass a bill. So I hope, I hope the House will change its mind. The Republican leadership, they know they control the schedule. They should cancel their recess and stay an extra week, and in that extra week we can work together. The Speaker doesn't like our bill, he can write his own bill. We'll go to conference, we'll start working on it, we'll get this thing done, and that's my ask today. My ask is, where is the House bill? And I'm asking to the House in the nicest way I know how, please don't leave tonight or tomorrow on a five and a half week break with this issue, the mess of this issue and the Highway Trust Fund is going bust on Friday. And if the best you can do after knowing about this for months and months and months is give us a paltry three-month extension, then shame on you. The Senate has proven in a very bipartisan basis we can do better. Not a three month extension – three years of a paid-for bill, six years of an authorized bill. Surely you can meet us and get this done together.