“Democrats in the House should follow the Senate’s lead. It’s time to find real solutions for the American people and economy.”
By: U.S. Senator John Barrasso
June 1, 2020
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are unifying around three infrastructure bills to fix America’s highways, ports and water systems. The bipartisan pieces of legislation are the result of input from every U.S. senator and – as of last month – all three have passed out of committee with unanimous support.
As our country begins to open back up, these bills will help get the American people and the American economy moving again. They will provide an immediate boost by creating jobs, while providing the long-term benefit of efficiently moving goods and services across the country.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House or Representatives are at a partisan standstill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have put out nothing other than a partisan outline calling for massive government spending over the next five years.
The dollar amounts included in the plan accompany a laundry list of liberal priorities.
Instead of working on bipartisan infrastructure solutions with House Republicans, House Democrats seem focused on writing a second “Green New Deal.” The framework includes measures to make federal buildings carbon-neutral and to eliminate transportation-related emissions altogether.
Included in the colossal spending total was over $100 billion for public transit systems. This represents a 72 percent increase over current funding levels. The top reason Democrats gave for spending so much on public systems was not efficiency or public mobility, but the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
As our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to implement social distancing, it’s clear Americans will rely more on cars, roads and bridges and less on public transportation.
A recent survey found 20 percent of people who took buses, trains and subways regularly before the virus will now avoid them in the future. Another 28 percent plan to use them less frequently. That’s nearly half of the people who use public transportation.
Even in response to the health crisis, House Democrats have continued to pound the drum for partisan ideas. In March, House leaders floated legislative language to create a “cash-for-clunkers” program for airlines as part of emergency coronavirus relief legislation.
At the same time, they wanted to hold hostage financial aid to the airlines by making it conditional on restrictive emissions reductions. Instead of keeping airlines flying, House Democrats prioritized punishing new regulations.
While House Republicans have been eager to work on bipartisan infrastructure legislation, House Democrats have excluded them entirely.
In response to the House Democrats’ framework, Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri – the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – said, “Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well.” It’s become clear that House Democrats aren’t serious.
By contrast, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working hand in hand on meaningful infrastructure legislation. Last year, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – which I chair – advanced the most substantial highway infrastructure legislation in history.
The bill will invest billions of dollars in our highways and bridges. It will increase funds for every state. The overwhelming majority of that money will go directly to state, tribal and local governments. This is good for two reasons. First, local leaders can determine which road and bridge projects are top priorities. And second, it allows funds to be spent more quickly, so people can get to work.
Similarly, our committee – on a bipartisan basis – has written and passed two water infrastructure bills to rebuild America’s ports, levees, dams, waterways and drinking water systems.
The three bills together will help cut government red tape, make communities safer and create much-needed jobs.
Liberals and conservatives alike support these three bills. President Donald Trump called for the highway bill to pass in his State of the Union Address and every committee member, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has voted in favor of all three pieces of legislation.
Infrastructure is critical to our economic recovery. Senators want to take up the combined bills, once the immediate health crisis is behind us.
Democrats in the House should follow the Senate’s lead. It’s time to find real solutions for the American people and economy.
Infrastructure should be bipartisan. The Senate is ready to pass major legislation. The Democrat-led House of Representatives is nowhere close.
Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, is an orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.