Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
Highway Bill Mr. President, as we stand on the verge of passing the highway bill, I would once again like to praise Chairman Inhofe for his leadership. Mr. Chairman we would not be at this point without your persistence and hard work, and I would like to personally thank you and Senators Baucus and Bond for their efforts. The highway bill before us is important for the nation. It will authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs through Fiscal Year 2009. This bill will make our roads safer. This bill will reduce traffic congestion. This bill supports mass transit. This bill will create jobs. This bill will have an impact on every town, every city and every state. The legislation before us includes a provision by Senators Grassley and Baucus that boosts funding in this bill by $11.2 billion, or about 4 percent over what the White House has requested. That funding makes all the difference in allowing us to draft a funding formula that ensures that all states benefit in this legislation. That funding helps level the playing field for many states that feel they are being treated unfairly at the White House prescribed funding level of $284 billion. I urge President Bush to reconsider his veto threat against this legislation. It’s a good bill that helps every state and will impact every American. There are no differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill that cannot be overcome with good, honest negotiation and compromise. But we should not enter those negotiations with a proverbial “gun at our head” with the threat of a veto. The White House should not enter the negotiations with a my way or the highway approach. Mr. President, there is a storm brewing in the Senate of mammoth proportions. It is a storm I hope we can avoid for the sake of this great institution. And I urge the President and the Republican leadership in the Senate to change the course of this storm. This bill, and others like it, are too important to get caught in the political hurricane on the horizon. Despite the gloomy forecast, I remain hopeful we can maintain the momentum we have made on the highway bill and reach a final agreement quickly and fairly. Thank you.