I rise today not only in opposition to this bill, but to the entire process of writing it.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen for over a century. More than 15 million Americans are unemployed, and while—thankfully—that number is dropping, we are not yet out of the woods of this economic crisis.
If ever there were a time for Congress to put aside partisanship and work together to create thoughtful legislation that can benefit the American people, it is now.
And yet here we are, debating the second bill in just a few weeks that is entirely partisan and divisive.
The last bill we considered spent $3 trillion on a wish list of liberal priorities and was entirely written in the Speaker’s office. No committee action, no input from rank-and-file members and ZERO consultation with the minority. A $3 trillion bill during the middle of a crisis written in the Speaker’s office and passed on a party line vote? One with virtually no chance of becoming law? Why are we spending our time on that kind of circus act while millions of Americans are waiting for real relief?
Today, we’re back under the big top, only four months from the expiration of the current highway authorization, debating an infrastructure bill that is more about messaging than meaningful policy.
This bill would spend $1.5 trillion dollars—nearly 7% of our entire GDP—and affect every American. That means Americans represented in Congress by Republicans too. Yet this bill was written and forced through Committee with zero input from the minority. Ranking Member Graves and the Republican Members of the main committee of jurisdiction were completely shut out of the process.
And so we’ve ended up with a far-left Green New Deal wish list instead of a thoughtful infrastructure bill. This would spend taxpayer money on bike shares in cities and art in public transit facilities. It focuses on zero-emissions busses rather than badly needed infrastructure improvements. It dramatically shifts funding from an all-of-the-above approach to a primary focus on urban transportation. And I have to say – given social-distancing practices and predictions of a long-term shift towards working at home – should we really be redistributing our money towards increased ridership on public transit?
Meanwhile, China has listed transportation R&D as one of its target areas to surpass the U.S. by 2030. That’s a problem, because we need solid infrastructure to transport goods and materials to stay economically competitive. Instead of focusing our R&D efforts on climate considerations, we should be supporting the research needed to accelerate transportation innovation to improve U.S. competitiveness. We’re letting China take the lead.
That’s what happens when you draft critical legislation without consulting the minority or even entire Committees with jurisdiction over key parts of this legislation.
I have the privilege of serving as the Ranking Member of the Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over the R&D title of the highway bill. Our Committee worked together – Democrats and Republicans – to produce a bipartisan research title. It was not even considered as part of this legislation. Furthermore, provisions related to aviation R&D and space were airdropped into the package without consulting us. This process has shut out Members of both parties – denying their input and ignoring their expertise.
It’s no wonder this bill is flawed.
What’s more, when combined with the last bill, Democrats have now proposed $4.5 trillion in partisan spending, ostensibly in response to the COVID crisis and infrastructure. They’ve included everything and the kitchen sink. And yet, they haven’t addressed one of the single most important things we can do to fight COVID-19 and fuel America’s economic growth: investing in scientific research.
Right now scientists, researchers, and engineers at our nation’s universities and federal labs are doing incredible work to produce PPE, model COVID-19, and screen potential treatments. That should be no surprise – we have some of the greatest scientific minds in the world because we’ve invested in our facilities, equipment, and STEM workforce development.
We need to recommit to that investment if we want any hope of remaining technologically competitive. There is a direct and strong correlation between spending on R&D and economic development and strength. China has already surpassed us in spending on research and technology. They know that global success can’t be achieved by funding pet projects like electric vehicle recharging stations. We need to focus our investments on the industries of the future, like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing.
I’ve introduced a bill that would double funding of basic research and create a national strategy to prioritize science and technology. The Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act gives us the tools we need to stay at the forefront of innovation and technological development.
I’ve also cosponsored a bipartisan bill that is necessary to get our research community back on its feet. Laboratories that couldn’t be turned to fighting COVID-19 were largely shuttered at the beginning of this pandemic, and their work was stopped. There’s a cost associated with revving up that research enterprise and putting American R&D back in drive. The Research Investment to Secure the Economy (RISE) Act authorizes approximately $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies – restarting our research work and supporting our economy.
Taken together, these bills provide immediate support for our research community and a long-term plan for America’s scientific success.
That’s the kind of legislation we should be considering today, and that’s the kind of thinking that should have gone into this infrastructure bill: bipartisan negotiations, immediate relief, long-term strategy.
This is a missed opportunity, and no way to run a railroad. Our country needs smart policies and not empty performances right now. I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill so we can go back to the drawing board and do this right. Americans deserve no less.